On Wednesday, June 9th, Lisa Curtis put a post on Facebook that her son Micah was graduating from Warren County High School in Front Royal, VA. She sent this post to local motorcycle clubs and on Facebook. This post, (which can be found on the Front Royal Moose Riders page on Facebook, along with pictures and video from the event) asked the community to help her do something special for her son, Micah Jeans, who has Asperger’s (a form of Autism).
Micah was never a popular kid, he struggled with school from day one. He never went to a dance, a prom, or even had a girlfriend. When COVID hit, the family lost the on-site support that was made available to Micah, making an already difficult situation even tougher. Somehow, by the grace of God, her son graduated from high school. She wanted him to have something to remember. She asked the motorcycle community if they would be willing to give Micah an escort to school. What happened after that was nothing short of a miracle and confirmation that there are some amazing people in this world.
The post was shared all over Facebook, and they had 60 motorcycles and 2 vehicles come to escort Micah to school that morning. It was an amazing sight to see. The story had spread through not only the biker community but through the community of Front Royal as well and beyond, people made signs and hung balloons along the road to the school. It was an extremely tearful moment as they realized the amount of effort, time, and unity that had occurred. All for a kid none of them knew. People came from near and far, some starting their journey at 2:30 AM to be there by 7.
That morning he didn’t even want to go to his graduation, they rode into the Moose Lodge in Front Royal that morning and saw an amazing sight. The parking lot was full, the bikes kept coming in. She says Micah leaned down and asked, “What is all this, mom?”. She said, “They are here for you buddy!” Micah gave her a big hug as they started getting emotional. In fact, many were emotional that morning. It was absolutely amazing and confirmation that people can come together, from different backgrounds, beliefs, and reasoning, to do something wonderful for someone they didn’t even know.
All 60 bikes rode to the school, they revved engines until the principal and his peers starting coming out of the school. They all stood there watching and clapping as this large procession of complete strangers rode by. They made his day, his year, and that will absolutely be the one thing he remembers of school. The kindness of complete strangers. The world needs a feel-good story, and Lisa wanted to share it with the Royal Examiner (she’s a daily reader). She said that people who attended this event also read the Royal Examiner, and they deserve to know their efforts were appreciated.
There are many kids like Micah, and they should know that people care about them and understand their struggles, especially with their last two years of schooling under COVID-19. This story isn’t just for Micah, it is for every kid who had to fight their way through school the last two years.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Red Fox
These babies aren’t babies anymore!
After nearly 5 months of care, including syringe and bottle feeding, our red fox babies aren’t babies anymore! While we take joy in every animal we release, seeing our fox kits grow up from eyes-closed kits to competent and wild juveniles hits us right in the feels.
We have now soft-released these juveniles so that they can begin hunting and perfecting their skills. During this transition time, we continue to provide food for them to fall back on, in case their hunting doesn’t go as well as expected. We use trail cams at the release site to monitor whether our foxes are returning for food, and to make sure we aren’t inadvertently feeding and congregating other animals instead! Over time, they’ll come back less and less as they solidify their skills and disperse to find other den sites.
We are always looking for more areas to release our animals, especially within Clarke County, Virginia. If you have appropriate property that you’re willing to allow us to erect temporary caging for soft-releasing foxes or raccoons, or to release other animals, especially groundhogs and skunks, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (540) 837-9000!
CDC updates mask wearing guidelines
On July 27, 2021, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) updated its mask-wearing guidelines as follows:
- If you are fully vaccinated, you can participate in many of the activities that you did before the pandemic.
- To maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
- Wearing a mask is most important if you have a weakened immune system or if, because of your age or an underlying medical condition, you are at increased risk for severe disease, or if someone in your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated. If this applies to you or your household, you might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission in your area.
- You should continue to wear a mask where required by law, rules, regulations, or local guidance.
The CDC has the level of Community Transmission in Warren County as high.
The Virginia Department of Health reports the following:
Dr. Rochelle Walensky and CDC officials held a briefing on July 27, 2021, to provide updated guidance on mask-wearing for vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
“In areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings to help prevent the spread of the Delta variant,” Said Dr. Walensky.
Here is the transcript from that meeting:
Dr. Rochelle Walensky: As you have heard from me previously, this pandemic continues to pose a serious threat to the health of all Americans. I have said, throughout my tenure at CDC, that our guidance and recommendations will follow the science in our efforts to protect the health of as many Americans as possible. And today we have new science related to the Delta variant that requires us to update the guidance regarding what you can do when you are fully vaccinated. The Delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us and to be an opportunist in areas where we have not shown a fortified response against it.
This week, our data showed that Delta remains the predominant variant circulating in the United States. Eight in 10 sequence samples contain the Delta variant. In recent days, I have seen new scientific data from recent outbreak investigations showing that the Delta variant behaves uniquely differently from past strains of the virus that cause COVID-19. Information on the Delta variant from several states and other countries indicates that on rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others. This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations.
First, we continue to strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated continues to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even with Delta. It also helps reduce the spread of the virus in our communities. Vaccinated individuals continue to represent a very small amount of transmission occurring around the country. We continue to estimate that the risk of a breakthrough infection with symptoms upon exposure to the Delta variant is reduced by seven-fold. The reduction is 20-fold for hospitalizations and deaths. As CDC has recommended for months, unvaccinated individuals should get vaccinated and continue masking until they are fully vaccinated.
In areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings to help prevent the spread of the Delta variant and protect others. This includes schools. CDC recommends that everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask indoors, including teachers, staff, students, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with proper prevention strategies in place. Finally, CDC recommends community leaders encourage vaccination and universal masking to prevent further outbreaks in areas of substantial and high transmission.
With the Delta variant, vaccinating more Americans now is more urgent than ever. The highest spread of cases and severe outcomes are happening in places with low vaccination rates and among unvaccinated people. This moment and most importantly, the associated illness, suffering, and death could have been avoided with higher vaccination coverage in this country. COVID-19 continues to present many challenges and has exacted a tremendous toll on our nation. We continue to follow the science closely and update the guidance should the science shift again. We must take every step we can to stop the Delta variant and end this pandemic. Now I’m happy to take your questions. Thank you.
What does this mean for vaccinated Americans? Who are these guidelines trying to protect if vaccinated Americans are not commonly hospitalized or dying from COVID and transmission is not as common? Are these guidelines mostly trying to protect them or the unvaccinated? And if it’s the latter, then how do these guidelines protect vaccinated and if this is the latter, then how do these guidelines protect the unvaccinated?
I think the most important thing to understand is the vaccines continued to do an exceptional job in protecting the individual who is vaccinated from severe illness, hospitalization, and death, and even, I guess, mild illness as they have indicated.
But your point is well taken and what is different with the Delta variant than what the Alpha variant is that in those cases, those rare cases that we have breakthrough infections, we felt it important for people to understand that they have the potential to transmit the virus to others.
Now, importantly, to convey in all of this is that of the transmission that is happening in the country right now, the vast majority of transmission occurring is occurring through unvaccinated individuals. But on that exception that there might have a vaccine breakthrough, we thought it was important for people to understand that they could pass the disease onto someone else. And that is important in the case, for example, of a vaccinated individual who might be going to visit an immunocompromised family member. We wanted to make sure that they took the precautions necessary to not pass the virus to them.
Is there a better way to think about the situation with Delta now? What are you telling your vaccinated friends and family when they go out for dinner, for example?
I think we still largely are in a pandemic of the unvaccinated. The vast majority of transmission, the vast majority of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, is almost exclusively happening among unvaccinated people which is why we so very much want to double down on making sure people continue to get vaccinated.
That said if you have vaccinated individuals who are in a place that with substantial or high transmission, there are contacting a lot of people, one in 21 in 10 of those contacts, could potentially lead to a breakthrough infection if you have an effectiveness of 90 to 95%. And so that’s why we’re saying in areas of substantial or high transmission, even if you are vaccinated, that we believe it’s important to wear a mask in those settings.
One, you said that you are seeing some who are fully vaccinated contribute to the spread. Can you say exactly how many people you have seen from this data that are vaccinated that are spreading this?
And secondly, when it comes to having everyone, regardless of vaccination status wear a mask in school, can you explain the thinking behind that? And are you worried that it will take away the incentive for some parents to get their children who are eligible to be vaccinated, vaccinated?
First, with regard to your first question, we are now actively conducting outbreak investigations of what is occurring in places that are having clusters and many of you have heard of many of those clusters.
What we’ve learned in that context is that when we examine the rarer breakthrough infections, and we look at the amount of virus in those people, it is pretty similar to the amount of viruses in unvaccinated people. We are now continuing to follow those clusters to understand the impact of forward transmission of those vaccinated people. But again, I want to reiterate, we believe the vast majority of transmission is occurring in unvaccinated people and through unvaccinated people. But unlike the Alpha variant that we had back in May, where we didn’t believe that if you were vaccinated, you could transmit further, this is different now with the Delta variant, and we’re seeing now that it’s actually possible if your rare breakthrough infection that you can transmit further, which is the reason for the change.
With regard to school, when we released our school guidance on July 9th, we had less Delta variants in this country. We had fewer cases in this country. And importantly, we were really hopeful that we would have more people vaccinated, especially in the demographic between 12 and 17 years old.
Next week, we have many school systems that are starting around the country and I think we all agree that children 11 and less are not going to be able to be vaccinated and with only 30% of our kids between 12 and 17 fully vaccinated now, more cases in this country and a real effort to try and make sure that our kids can safely get back to full in-person learning in the fall, we’re recommending that everybody wear masks right now.
Some people have asked me, why change math guidance to protect people who decide not to get vaccinated, even though they can. Can you say something about the role, the unvaccinated person who gets infected, even if they have mild or no illness, can play in the development of the next variant of concern, with that variant potentially going on to have a higher chance of potentially infecting those of us who are vaccinated.
The first thing I think we all need to acknowledge is there are some people who are not able to be fully vaccinated, like children, and some people who are not able to be fully protected even though they are vaccinated like immuno-compromised people.
So part of the reason for this guidance is to make sure that we can protect those and that people who are seeing immuno-compromised people, for example, know how to protect them, even though they themselves may be fully vaccinated.
But your point is well taken about those who have made the choice to not get vaccinated and the amount of virus that is circulating in this country right now. So for the amount of viruses circulating in this country, largely among unvaccinated people, the largest concern that I think we in public health and science are worried about is that virus and the potential mutations away we are from a very transmissible virus that has the potential to evade our vaccine, in terms of how it protects us from severe disease and deaths.
Right now, fortunately, we are not there. These vaccines operate really well in protecting us about severe forms of severe disease and deaths. But the big concern is that the next variant that might emerge, just a few mutations potentially away, could potentially invade our vaccine.
I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about the data showing that some vaccinated individuals have similar viral loads to unvaccinated. And if you could talk about whether the CDC is looking at expanding the mask guidance to maybe require masking indoors, in public spaces, in all circumstances or other being indoors in public spaces, in all circumstances or other public health measures, given the spread of Delta?
So, as I mentioned, in these outbreak investigations, we are able to stratify the clusters that we are seeing. Unfortunately, because we have so much disease right now, some of these clusters are large, and we’re able to stratify them by a smaller proportion that is vaccinated and breakthrough infections, and a larger proportion that is unvaccinated. And so, when we look at their Ct values, or otherwise their viral load, and what we’re seeing is that they’re actually quite similar. That leads us to believe that the breakthrough infections, where they are, have the potential to [inaudible] transmit with the same capacity as an unvaccinated person. So the burden is less because there are fewer of them people-wise, but the amount of virus is the thing between those two strata.
In terms of otherwise updating our guidance, we’re not looking at that right now. What I will say is if you are in a place that doesn’t have very much disease out there, obviously I should mention, it’s always a personal choice as to whether someone chooses to wear a mask or not, and that should not something that is stigmatized or otherwise. But in terms of our guidance, if you have a vaccine that is 90 to 95% effective and you don’t have very much disease around, the chance of you getting infected should you meet somebody, is already pretty low, but then the chance that you’re going to meet somebody who is infected is also pretty low. So the potential for this to be a problem is much, much lower in areas with low amounts of disease, which is why we really need to work hard to get these areas in the country that have substantial and high amounts of the transmission right now, down to lower amounts of transmission, to protect the unvaccinated and get them vaccinated, and also to protect the vaccinated.
Dr. Walensky, can you tell me whether or not you are intending to start collecting and releasing data on the breakthrough cases? I mean, a while back, the CDC announced that they were not going to be reporting on this data, but it looks like the Delta VarianT is changing the equation in a lot of ways. When will we start to see those data?
I would like to correct a misperception that is out there. The first thing I want to say is we are collecting passive reporting data on people who are hospitalized and who have died, but we recognize that epidemiologically, that is not going to give us the best information with regard to rates of breakthrough infection because passive data collection is generally underreported. In order to counter that. We have been collecting data through more than 20 cohorts of people. These include tens of thousands of people who we are following nationwide, and they include healthcare workers, essential workers, long-term care facilities, and in some of these cohorts, we’re collecting PCR data from every person in them weekly. So we are absolutely studying and evaluating breakthrough infections in many different sites, many different people across the country. We are looking at those data on a weekly to bi-weekly basis, and we will be reporting on those soon.
Can you just sort of define how you assess substantial and high transmission? If someone reading, one of our stories wants to know if this applies to them, how are they supposed to know what their community level of transmission is, and in turn when they should be wearing a mask, and then maybe if rates fall, when they can kind put them back away?
So the CDC COVID Data Tracker tracks the amount of community transmission by county and is updated daily. It’s color-coded, so substantial is orange and high is red, and in fact, most departments of public health and local jurisdictions track this pretty carefully as well. We can get you the link, of course, to find the data. But the important thing I want to continue is what it means. Substantial transmission in areas that have 50 to 100 cases per a hundred thousand over a seven-day period, and substantial are places that have more than a hundred cases in a seven-day period per hundred thousand. So I do want to sort of articulate that we have places in counties and states here that are now reporting over 300 cases per hundred thousand over a seven-day period, so really an extraordinary amount of viral transmission, which is what we’re concerned about.
I am wondering if given what you now know about the Delta variant and the transmissibility if the CDC is giving any thought to recommending vaccine mandates, for instance, of the federal workforce or the military, which President Biden could impose, or mandates perhaps for schools or employers?
So that is not something that the CDC has jurisdiction over. We certainly will be technical advisors to the government as they’re making these decisions. What I will say is that we are recommending that communities look to their community levels and really look to what would motivate their communities to help get vaccinated. If businesses believe that it would be a mandate, then we encourage them to do so. We’re encouraging really any activities that would motivate further vaccination. Not all communities are going to be responsive to a mandate, in the same way, so we’re really encouraging communities to look to their own areas and see what would be most motivational to get vaccinated.
High caliber masks, because in areas where there are low vaccination rates, one would expect that mask adoption would also be low. In order to sort of maximum personal protection, are you emphasizing N95 masks over cloth and surgical?
Right now, often surgical.
Right now, we’re really motivated to get people masked to prevent transmission. If people have a personal choice as to whether they have access to and want to wear an N95, we leave that to their personal decision, the CDC does have guidance as to what are the best masks to wear, a multi-layer cloth mask, a surgical mask. So we’re leaving that to the CDC guidance on masking
Doctor, given the definitions that you’ve had here of the high and substantial transmission, and I understand that you’re doing it county by county, will you consider much of the state of Missouri now as in high or substantial transmission and subject to the recommendations that the CDC is making this afternoon? And are some of the clusters that you are investigating also in the state of Missouri?
The state of Missouri, I’m actually just even looking, but my understanding is the state of Missouri is largely classified as higher substantial. It’s not entirely, but it’s largely classified as substantial or high with a few exceptions in the county. And we are collaborating with the state when they ask for our assistance related to outbreak investigation
One of the big outstanding questions here is how much compliance we might expect to get in terms of folks masking up indoors. Have you done any type of modeling work to get a sense of if you get certain percent compliance, whether that would be sufficient in helping to drive down cases at this time?
We work together. We worked together with numerous modeling groups. I don’t specifically know which ones might have examined that. So I think I should probably refrain from answering that right now, but I suspect that one of the modeling groups has examined the question. I really do believe that masking right now, especially for those unvaccinated, is a temporary measure. What we really need to do to drive down these transmissions in areas of high transmission is to get more and more people vaccinated and in the meantime to use masks.
I just have one sort of closing remark.
So I just want to indicate that this is not a decision that we or CDC has made lightly. This weighs heavily on me. I know at 18 months through this pandemic, not only are people tired, they’re frustrated. We have mental health challenges in this country. We have a lot of continued sickness and death in this country. Our health systems are, in some places, being overrun for what is preventable. And I know in the context of all of that, it is not a welcomed piece of news that masking is going to be a part of people’s lives who have already been vaccinated.
So this new data weighs heavily on me. This new guidance weighs heavily on me, and I just wanted to convey that this was not a decision that was taken lightly. Public health experts, scientific experts, medical experts, when we have shown them these data have universally said that this required action. I thought and I felt that when I saw the data myself. So I just wanted to perhaps close and say that this was not something that we took lightly and something that I know weighs heavily with me and with all of America.
Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, is the 19th Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the ninth Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. She is an influential scholar whose pioneering research has helped advance the national and global response to HIV/AIDS. Dr. Walensky is also a well-respected expert on the value of testing and treatment of deadly viruses.
Dr. Walensky served as Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital from 2017-2020 and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School from 2012-2020. She served on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic and conducted research on vaccine delivery and strategies to reach underserved communities.
Dr. Walensky is recognized internationally for her work to improve HIV screening and care in South Africa and is nationally recognized for motivating health policy and informing clinical trial design and evaluation in a variety of settings.
She is a past Chair of the Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council at the National Institutes of Health, Chair-elect of the HIV Medical Association, and previously served as an advisor to both the World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.
Originally from Maryland, Dr. Walensky received her Bachelor of Arts from Washington University in St. Louis, her Doctor of Medicine from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and her Masters in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Meza resigns, council denies Lloyd’s ‘civil rights Emergency Ordinance’ proposal despite 49-2 public support
Monday’s regular meeting of the Front Royal Town Council got off to an unexpected start when Valley Health employee Jacob Meza emotionally read a prepared statement resigning his seat, effective immediately, into the meeting record. Meza then exited stage right of the Warren County Government Center main meeting room to an affectionate farewell from his colleagues and rousing applause from a full house this reporter estimated at 150 people, there, for the most part, to comment on Councilman Scott Lloyd’s Emergency civil rights ordinance proposal to prevent Valley Health, and other private-sector employers within the town limits, from mandating employees to receive the COVID-19 Coronavirus vaccination at threat of termination.
Things turned ugly at the open meeting’s adjournment approaching 11 p.m. when a number of citizens verbally and loudly expressed their displeasure with the 3-2 vote of denial, Lloyd and Joe McFadden, the latter by remote hookup, dissenting.
Scattered boos and a loud “Evil Triumphs” was heard, along with “We won’t forget this” among other negative comments aimed at the council majority of Letasha Thompson, Gary Gillespie and
Vice-Mayor Lori Cockrell. That majority had prefaced their votes with explanations that legal research by the Town Attorney’s Office had indicated the Town has no legal authority to make such a legislative mandate in response to private-sector vaccine mandates, particularly in a Dillon Rule state like Virginia, where municipal authority cannot exceed what is authorized to it by the state government.
And as Town Attorney Doug Napier had explained during the work session discussion, the state is authorized legally by code and/or its Constitution to mandate vaccines during a public health crisis. That legally hamstrings municipal governments from attempting to counter public health emergency vaccine mandates.
After the two-phased public comments on the Lloyd proposal lasting 3-hours-and-2 minutes – broken into two sections to facilitate council taking care of other business including two public hearings – Mayor Chris Holloway called for a motion. After an extended silence and a second call for a motion, Lloyd made the motion to approve his ordinance proposal. It was seconded by McFadden, whose father Tom was the second of 49 speakers in favor of the ordinance proposal.
Gillespie observed that he felt the Lloyd initiative countered the conservative Republican principle of limited government he, and other Republican conservatives espouse.
Speaking first following Lloyd’s motion to approve his emergency ordinance proposal, reading from a prepared statement Thompson told the audience that, not only did council not have the legal authority to pass such legislation, but that passing it would not protect the Valley Health employees who spoke in favor of Lloyd’s proposal, including doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners, from termination by their employer. While stating she personally believed in choice on medical decisions, as her vote with council in not mandating town employees to be vaccinated indicated, she observed that “Freedom goes in both directions”. She elaborated that in Virginia as a “Right to Work” state limiting union influence, employees anywhere can be fired for virtually any reason an employer might cite.
Thompson said that with the facts before them, she did not believe voting to approve the ordinance “to make everyone in the room happy” was “the right thing to do.”
In fact, Thompson cited Lloyd’s insistence in bringing his legislative initiative to a vote despite the lack of legal grounds for it as “political theater” geared toward the councilman’s personal agenda, which she had confronted him about at the July 12 work session perhaps being beyond the boundaries of the Town of Front Royal. As has been previously reported, Lloyd has past national political exposure, serving as the Trump Administration’s Director of Refugee Resettlement during a particularly controversial period at the southern border when refugee/immigrant children were being incarcerated separately from their parents or guardians who had entered the country illegally as administration policies delayed legal entry at prescribed border crossings for weeks.
Lloyd has noted he did not create the child-separation policy and was simply in the administrative position to implement it. He has also publicly noted he is far from a “zero-tolerance” stance on immigration.
A minority of two
However, one of the two people speaking against Lloyd’s anti-vaccine-mandate ordinance, Stevie Hubbard, ended her comments by loudly saying that whatever Lloyd did to protect personal liberties as a councilman, “Won’t make up for what you did to those kids at the border.”
When Hubbard cited COVID-19 case-fatality statistics found at the Virginia Health Department website to counter some of the pro-ordinance statistics presented by the anti-vaccine mandate majority, a number of people laughed derisively at her source.
Many of the pro-ordinance speakers reflected skepticism of, not only government information on the Coronavirus pandemic, but media coverage of it, as well as any legal roadblocks to the approval of Lloyd’s effort to counter the Valley Health COVID-19 vaccine mandate or others.
In addition to Hubbard, speaking against Lloyd’s proposal was Gene Kilby, whose family was at the center of fighting the local “massive resistance” effort to prevent the racial integration of Warren County Public Schools in the late 1950s, early ‘60s. In fact, Kilby observed, “This community has a history of going against the grain. It’s almost reminiscent of back in the day with the massive resistance problem.
“The State mandated that the schools be integrated. But because of groups like this (the county) built massive resistance, which was totally illegal,” he reminded council of the eventual legal outcome, adding that while he agreed people “should have their choice” that a final legislative decision must be grounded “in the rule of law – and you must act in the best interest of the general public,” Kilby concluded to a smattering of applause.
A majority of 49
John Lundberg opened the public comments on the Lloyd ordinance first citing an oft-revisited assertion that available COVID-19 vaccines were “experimental drugs” not yet approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) due to the public health emergency pace at which the vaccines were made available to the public.
Some speakers claimed there were more traditional options “safer than Ibuprofen” available as an alternative to the vaccines. Others said that masking and social distancing were more effective barriers against COVID-19 contagion than the vaccine has proven to be.
A number of speakers raised religious belief as grounds not to accept a vaccine mandate. Others were critical of the religious exemption form Valley Health uses to determine if employees qualify for such exemption. “What’s next,” another asked, “are they going to go after our churches and tell us we can’t worship God?!?”
Manuel Vincente called the approaching vote on Lloyd’s proposal “a choice between liberty and fascism”. As for legal precedents against passage, Vincente said the U.S. Supreme Court had “decided in favor of genocide over and over again” in legalizing abortion.
One speaker called COVID-19 “the Communist Chinese Virus”, while Matt Morrazzo referred to it as “the Wuhan-Fauci virus”. Gene McGirk later playfully criticized that reference “for giving Wuhan top billing”.
Morrazzo also wondered if the next step beyond vaccine mandates wouldn’t be “vaccine passports” you will need to go anywhere or do anything – “The infantry will be coming for all our rights,” he worried if the Coronavirus mandate trend continued.
Recently appointed Warren County School Board member Melanie Salins cited a COVID-19 vaccine packaging warning not to take it if allergic to any of its ingredients, observing that the vaccine package insert did not list the ingredients – “You can’t give informed consent if you’re not informed,” Salins said to applause. She compared Valley Health’s vaccine mandate to a legal definition of “assault” as “physical contact that happens without your explicit and voluntary consent”, drawing more applause. She concluded by asserting that the vaccine mandate violated “the Nuremberg Code” on medical ethics established after World War II in reaction to Nazi medical experiments conducted on imprisoned Germans or conquered populations.
Many Valley Health employees became emotional pondering the choice they were being given to accept the vaccine or face termination. Many wondered how frontline workers such as themselves had gone from being “heroes” for their efforts against the pandemic to targets for termination for their belief the vaccines are dangerous, not adequately tested, immorally developed, or in violation of their religious beliefs.
In arguing for his proposal, policy attorney Lloyd echoed some public comments in support of the emergency ordinance proposal, saying just because something had been ruled illegal in the courts, didn’t make it right or unchallengeable. While admitting the Town did not yet know whether its Virginia Municipal League municipal liability insurance would cover such a legal challenge of state authority on the matter, he offered to represent the Town in any subsequent legal challenge of his ordinance, if passed Monday night, and VML insurance paid attorneys ended up not being available to the Town.
Following the roll call vote and 3-2 defeat of Lloyd’s ordinance proposal by the now-five member council, as the angry and disappointed crowd disbursed, one man yelled at Councilwoman Letasha Thompson, who yelled back “watch your mouth” telling him not to “disrespect” her from the floor of Government Center meeting room. That only led to an escalating exchange leading to the man’s escort from the building by the Front Royal Police. Involved officers said the man was not arrested as he was compliant and settled down after their arrival.
See all the action, explanations, opinions, concerns on this important matter to the community, along with other business including the tabling of action on changes to the Town’s Special Events Code to further work session discussion, in the linked Town video.
Two downtown businessmen, Royal Cinemas Rick Novak and C&C Frozen Treats William Huck addressed the draft Special Events code, urging council to take more care in formulating a final draft regarding issues raised about a rating-approval matrix system seemingly geared toward larger, tourism and revenue-generating events at the perceived expense of smaller, community events.
IRS Washington DC Field Office warns of most commonly seen tax scams
Each year, the Internal Revenue Service issues a list of the twelve most commonly seen tax schemes. The list, called the “Dirty Dozen” is published to alert taxpayers, tax professionals, and financial institutions of prevalent scams.
“With the global pandemic this past year, scam artists sadly preyed on those in great need. They exploited people’s fear, the uncertainty of the future, and need for assistance to obtain personal identifying information and funds from unsuspected individuals,” said Darrell J. Waldon, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-CI Washington DC Field Office. “We hope to prevent additional individuals from falling victim to these scams by getting this information out and making people aware of potential cons they may run across.”
This year’s Dirty Dozen was split into categories and issued by the IRS in four separate releases. Below are summaries of the most prevalent schemes with links to the news releases issued which provide additional information from IRS.gov.
- Economic Impact Payment theft
- Unemployment fraud leading to inaccurate taxpayer 1099-Gs
To help taxpayers avoid identity theft, the IRS this year made its Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) program available to all taxpayers. Previously it was available only to victims of ID theft or taxpayers in certain states.
- Tax-related phishing scams •Impersonator phone calls/vishing
- Social media scams •Ransomware
The IRS will never call and threaten you for immediate payment and will not demand specific payment methods such as prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer. The IRS will never request personal or financial information by e-mail, text, or social media. If you are contacted in this manner, do not give out any information and do not engage in communication.
- Fake charities •Immigrant/senior fraud
- Offer in Compromise “mills” •Unscrupulous tax return preparers
- Unemployment insurance fraud
- Syndicated conservation easements •Potentially abusive use of the US-Malta tax treaty
- Abusive micro-captive arrangements. •Improper monetized installment sales
- Improper claims of business credits
If you are aware of any abusive tax scam or believe you have been the victim of one of these scams, please report it to the IRS. Information on how to report tax crimes can be found on IRS.gov.
EDA crunches operational budget numbers, moves scandal year audits forward
The Board of Directors met today for their regular monthly meeting. Following an approximately two-hour Closed Meeting, on a motion by Jim Wolfe and seconded by Scott Jenkins, the EDA Board unanimously agreed to add an additional $10,000 to the contract with Brown Edwards, who is completing the FY2018 and FY2019 audits, pending documentation of work completed and review by legal counsel.
Under New Business, the Board agreed to table action on updating the EDA Bylaws. The Board of Directors did pass three additional motions:
On a motion by Jorie Martin and seconded by Jim Wolfe, the EDA Board unanimously approved requesting to the Board of Supervisors an increase of three line items to the EDA’s FY2022 Operations budget:
Professional fees-Auditor $32,500: this increase is to account for a $10,000 amendment to the Brown Edwards contract for FY 2018 and FY2019, and $40,000 to conduct the FY2020 and FY2021 audits.
Marketing-$5,880: this increase is to account for updated plans to participate in economic development programs and site visits, as well as marketing materials.
Maintenance-$14,310: The EDA is reimbursing the commercial tenant at 1325 Progress Drive for HVAC replacement and repairs. Additionally, the HVAC at 400 Kendrick Lane-West and 426 Baugh Drive need extensive service.
On a motion by Jorie Martin and seconded by Jim Wolfe, the EDA Board unanimously approved a Request For Proposals (RFP) to advertise for auditing services for the fiscal year 2020 and 2021.
Finally, on a motion by Jorie Martin and seconded by Jim Wolfe, the EDA Board approved reimbursing Visionary Optics, the tenant at 1325 Progress Drive, $4,500 for expenses related to HVAC replacement and repairs.
The EDA Board of Directors will have their next regular monthly board meeting via Zoom on Friday, August 27, 2021, at 8 a.m.
Virginia’s State Board for Community Colleges approves name change for Lord Fairfax Community College
Virginia’s State Board for Community Colleges today approved changing the name of three of the commonwealth’s 23 community colleges, including Lord Fairfax Community College, which will become Laurel Ridge Community College.
The new name, selected by a task force of students, faculty, alumni, LFCC retirees, community members, and college board members, is drawn from the native laurel flower that is characteristic of the region, and the proximity of the college’s four locations to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“As with our sister colleges within Virginia’s Community College System, we are very proud of what’s been accomplished in our first 50 years, and the thousands of lives in our region that have been changed because of Lord Fairfax Community College,” said college President Kim Blosser. “As we begin our next 50 years, we are embracing a new name that better reflects our college’s positive spirit, can-do attitude, and welcoming culture. Laurel Ridge Community College exemplifies our mission to provide a positive, caring, and dynamic learning environment that inspires student success, values diversity, and promotes community vitality.”
Dr. Blosser noted that the laurel flower for millennia has been associated with academic achievement – all the way back to ancient Greek and Roman times. The term “laureate” – as in Nobel and poet laureate – is bestowed on those attaining the highest levels of creative and intellectual success.
President Blosser said that the development of the college’s new visual identity – logos and signage, for example – will begin immediately. Incoming students in the fall will be officially enrolled in Lord Fairfax Community College while the college works toward completing its transition to Laurel Ridge during the academic year. Degrees will begin reflecting the new name during the 2022-2023 academic year.
“Since the State Board’s resolution to review all named facilities, campuses, and colleges was passed July 16, 2020, the college has engaged with hundreds of students, employees, alumni, retirees, college supporters, and community members,” said Dr. Blosser. “Today’s decision by the State Board allows us to move forward in a way that acknowledges all the great work that’s happened at LFCC with a renewed commitment to our students and our business community that even better things are ahead at LRCC.
“I want to thank the task force, our employees, the many individuals who participated in roundtable feedback groups, and our College Board for their dedicated and painstaking work.”
The transition to Laurel Ridge will have no impact on the degrees and certificates students attained between 1972 and 2022. The former name will be printed in parentheses on new transcripts.
Founded in 1970, Lord Fairfax Community College, soon-to-be Laurel Ridge Community College, is a multi-campus public institution of higher education. With four locations — Middletown, Warrenton, Luray-Page County, and most recently, Vint Hill— the College serves eight localities in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Piedmont regions. The localities are the counties of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah, and Warren and the city of Winchester. LFCC offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of disciplines, in addition to providing access to bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs offered on-site by a four-year institution. LFCC also serves the business community by offering workforce preparation programs for employees and employers. LFCC serves more than 9,000 unduplicated credit students and more than 11,000 individuals in professional development and business and industry courses annually.