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Air Force One exposure puts a hold on Biden campaign coverage for VOA reporter



Editor’s note: Voice of America’s White House correspondent Steve Herman and his wife Rosyla were recent guests of our retired AP correspondent Malcolm Barr Sr. and his wife Carol, as reported in Barr’s story VOA reports worldwide from Front Royal on the death of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ginsburg. With some of those who met the Hermans at Yappy Hour that week inquiring about how last week’s presidential COVID-19 diagnosis had impacted Herman’s work, Barr sought and received permission for Royal Examiner to reprint the following story, which Herman explained is considered public domain now in the U.S., and with which Herman included VOA public domain photos to accompany our publication of the article.

WHITE HOUSE – The day before President Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19, he flew to Minnesota on Air Force One with senior staff, as well as pool reporters, including VOA’s White House bureau chief Steve Herman. The next day Herman traveled to Wilmington to prepare to cover a Joe Biden rally, the only reporter who attempted to switch between the Trump and Biden campaigns this week. He describes the experience following the president’s positive coronavirus test.

Publicity photo of Steve Herman on his beat for Voice of America – Rights Steve Herman/VOA Public Domain

At the White House on Wednesday morning, a member of the medical office swabbed my nose to collect a sample for the routine COVID-19 rapid test administered daily to all members of the protective pool of reporters covering the president’s activities.

It was a brief and painless procedure. I had undergone it more than a dozen times in recent months — always with the same “negative” result. That has also been the case for my colleagues on the White House beat, Patsy Widakuswara and Carolyn Presutti, with whom I alternate campaign coverage when it is VOA’s turn in the rotation among radio networks.

As the day’s designated radio pooler for the Minnesota round trip on Air Force One, I was responsible for ensuring that all the networks would have broadcast quality audio whenever the president spoke — from the time we left Joint Base Andrews in Maryland to our post-midnight return on the same military tarmac.

The president’s first stop in Minnesota, known as “the Land of 10,000 Lakes,” was a massive multimillion-dollar estate on the shores of Lake Minnetonka. At a fundraiser at the home of wealthy Republican Party donor Martin Davis, during which the accompanying media waited outside in our vans, Trump mingled with an unannounced number of guests. Thus, we were not able to observe if the participants were wearing masks or engaged in social distancing.

Duluth rally

Such recommended precautions were certainly not seen at the president’s next stop in Duluth, where an airport rally was held. Thousands of enthusiastic supporters turned out – crammed in bleachers, on the tarmac and in the hangar. Only about a fifth of the crowd wore any type of face covering.

Trump spoke for 45 minutes. His normal rally remarks usually stretch beyond an hour. This, I noted at the time, was unusual. But it was chilly and windy on the north shore of Lake Superior on the last day of September.

A panoramic view of the mostly unmasked crowd attending a rally Sept. 30, 2020, at which President Donald Trump spoke at Duluth International Airport in Minnesota. – Photo Steve Herman/VOA News – Public Domain

When we made the sprint back to the warm airplane, the group of reporters and photographers surmised the president did not want to spend any additional time exposed to such weather. Later we would learn from official sources and media reports that Trump was apparently already feeling unwell, that he fell asleep for part of the two-hour flight back to Maryland and an ill Hope Hicks, counselor to the president, had decided to isolate herself on the plane. She would test positive for the coronavirus the following morning, something the public did not know until Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs broke the story late Thursday.

Trump, during his travels Wednesday, did not make remarks before boarding or stepping off the plane and he did not come back to the press cabin at any time to speak to us. That was unusual but not unprecedented.

We also had no contact with Hicks that day.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows did chat for about 10 minutes with the poolers on the plane during the flight home from Minnesota. He said on Friday that he had tested negative for COVID-19.

Flight to New Jersey

In a decision that is being criticized by health officials, journalists and Democrats, Trump, on Thursday, following Hicks’ diagnosis, flew to his private club in Bedminster, New Jersey, for a round-table and fundraiser with supporters. Several White House aides who had been in close proximity to Hicks did not join the trip.

Asked why the president went ahead with the journey, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters on Friday afternoon that “it was deemed safe” by White House operations.

At that outdoor fundraiser, the president was kept more than 6 feet (2 meters) from a group of about 18 donors, who were not wearing masks, according to campaign sources.

While the president was in New Jersey, I was on an Amtrak train to the state of Delaware to prepare to resume coverage of the Joe Biden campaign. Although we would not be departing with the Democratic Party candidate to Michigan until Friday, the campaign requires all pool reporters traveling with the candidate to take a COVID-19 test the prior day. This was done at a Wilmington hotel by a pair of technicians from a chain pharmacy, and the antigen test is similar to the one conducted at the White House.

Quick result

Unlike the procedure in the White House, where we are not informed of the results unless it is a “positive,” the reporters in Wilmington waited on the spot while their swabs are analyzed by the humming Abbott ID NOW machine, which, after about 15 minutes, spits out a piece of paper with the results.

“COVID-19: Negative. Procedural control valid,” mine read.

At that point, I assumed I was good to go and returned to my downtown hotel to rest for Friday morning, when we were scheduled to join the Biden motorcade near his residence and ride to the New Castle airport.

When word came of Hicks’ positive test and her presence on the Air Force One flights the previous day, I notified the Biden campaign, which consulted with medical advisers, and it was decided that out an abundance of caution I stay back on Friday.

It would be a few hours later, with a @realDonaldTrump tweet, that we learned one more passenger on Air Force One had tested positive for the coronavirus: the president himself.

The Hermans and the Barrs relaxing at Yappy Hour in Front Royal on September 18. Steve was soon back at work from his Front Royal B&B reporting on Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death’s impact on the U.S. presidential campaign. Royal Examiner Photo by Roger Bianchini

By Steve Herman
Voice of America
Updated October 02, 2020 11:18 PM

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Humane Society’s ‘Polar Plunge’ rescheduled to Saturday, March 13



The Humane Society of Warren County “Polar Plunge” delayed from February 20 due to “too-polar” weather here in northwestern Virginia has been rescheduled to Saturday, March 13 – Don’t worry, it will still be a “Polar Plunge” because it’ll still be winter then, though hopefully for the plungers with a continuation of the current turn toward spring-like 60 degree temperatures! In its inaugural year of 2020, the event became a popular fundraiser supporting the Humane Society’s efforts on behalf of the local animal community and the HSWC’s Julia Wagner Animal Shelter.

As reported in the original press release on the event: this year’s “plunge” is made possible through the sponsorship of City National Bank, Cool Techs Heating and Air, Ellen Aders State Farm, AirPac, MDUB Chauffeur Services and Cavalier Kennels. This year’s event is expected to help raise as much as $12,000 for the Humane Society.

There were 35 plungers initially signed up to take a dip in the icy water, each working to help raise much-needed funds for homeless animals in Warren County. There are 15 new plungers, and 20 returning plungers who will all run into the Culpeper Lake at the 4-H Center, followed by a warm-up at the fire pit.

Polar plungers plunge into last year’s event at the 4-H Center lake in Harmony Hollow in southern Warren County – ‘Baby, it’s cold in there’. Courtesy Photos HSWC

The event team will be ensuring that all CDC Covid-19 guidelines are followed, and masks will be required at this outdoor event.

In 2020, pre-pandemic, the top fundraiser was Molly Llewellyn, who raised over $1,000 for the shelter. There was also an award for best dressed. Both of these awards will be returning for the 2021 event.

The Humane Society of Warren County is a non-profit animal shelter that houses homeless, neglected, abused and unwanted animals. While primarily dealing with cats and dogs, the shelter has also been home to livestock, birds, reptiles and more.

Executive Director Meghan Bowers avoided taking the plunge last year, but is leading the charge into the water in 2021 dressed as a shark, so far raising about $467 from friends and family.

Hot drinks, Strites Donuts and music will keep participants warm during the run up and aftermath of the short but stimulating plunge.

For more information on this event or others, please visit HSWC Events Page.

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Governor Northam increases capacity limits for outdoor sports and entertainment venues



On February 24, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam announced that as COVID-19 hospitalizations and infection rates continue to decline and vaccinations rise in Virginia, certain outdoor sports and entertainment venues may begin to operate at increased capacity starting Monday, March 1. He amended Executive Order Seventy-Two with the next steps of the “Forward Virginia” plan to safely and gradually ease public health restrictions while mitigating the spread of the virus.

“Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of all Virginians, hospitalization and positivity rates across the Commonwealth are the lowest they have been in nearly three months,” said Governor Northam. “As key health metrics show encouraging trends, and we continue to ramp up our vaccination efforts, we can begin to gradually resume certain recreational activities and further reopen sectors of our economy. Even as we take steps to safely ease public health guidelines, we must all remain vigilant, so we can maintain our progress—the more we stay home, mask up, and practice social distancing, the more lives we will save from this dangerous virus.”

The Commonwealth will maintain a Safer at Home strategy with continued strict health and safety protocols including physical distancing, mask-wearing requirements, gathering limits, and business capacity restrictions. The current modified Stay at Home order will expire on February 28, 2021.

Governor Northam is beginning to ease public health restrictions by taking steps to increase capacity limits in outdoor settings, where evidence shows the risk of airborne transmission of COVID-19 is lower. The key changes in the Third Amended Executive Order Seventy-Two include:

• Social gatherings: The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase from 10 to 25 people for outdoor settings, while remaining at 10 persons for indoor settings.

• Entertainment venues: Outdoor entertainment and public amusement venues will be able to operate with up to 1,000 individuals or at 30 percent capacity, whichever is lower. If current trends continue, these venues may be able to operate at 30 percent capacity with no cap on the number of people permitted to attend starting in April. Indoor entertainment and public amusement venues must continue to operate at 30 percent capacity with a cap of 250 people. All entertainment venues were previously limited to a maximum of 250 individuals.

• Dining establishments: The on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol will be permitted until midnight, extended from 10:00 p.m. All restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, and tasting rooms still must be closed between midnight and 5:00 a.m.

• Overnight summer camps: As of May 1, overnight summer camps will be able to open with strict mitigation measures in place. Registration can begin now.

The new guidelines will be effective for at least one month and mitigation measures may be eased further if key health metrics continue to improve. Current guidelines for retail businesses, fitness and exercise, large amusement venues, and personal grooming services will remain in place. Individuals are strongly encouraged to continue teleworking if possible.

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Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – February 24, 2021



Governor Northam joins the Virginia Emergency Support Team to share the latest updates on the COVID-19 response.

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Humane Society announces large donation for spay and neuter clinic



The Humane Society of Warren County has received a donation in the amount of $60,000 from Linda R. Lorber for the opening and operating of a new low-cost, high quality spay and neuter clinic in Front Royal, Virginia.

Linda R. Lorber lived in Front Royal from 2004 until 2012, but still has many ties throughout the Valley. Linda has had many dogs and cats through the years, and was fortunate enough to be in a position to get them proper veterinary care.

Many families locally are not able to afford proper veterinary care, and the Humane Society of Warren County’s undertaking aims to make spay and neuter surgeries and vaccines more accessible.

With plans to open the clinic in the summer of 2021, the HSWC Spay Clinic – Linda R. Lorber Campus will offer services to local and regional pet owners, as well as rescue and community cat groups.

“Our goal is to improve the lives of animals, and our vision is to live in a community where every pet is a wanted pet.” Says Executive Director, Meghan Bowers.  She explains that the first step towards this vision is to prevent unwanted litters.

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DMV continues to add online service options during COVID-19 pandemic



The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is now offering even more convenient online service options for customers during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Customers can now skip a trip to the DMV and instead visit to replace their commercial driver’s license (CDL), driver’s license learner’s permit, driver privilege card or learner’s permit, or limited duration driver’s license, permit, or CDL. Online credential replacements are only available to customers age 18 and older. These transactions previously required an in-person visit.

“DMV continues to add online options to not only make service more convenient but to create additional appointment opportunities for customers who need in-person service,” said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb. “Customers have come to rely on alternate means of service for every aspect of life during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we will continue to look for ways to meet new expectations.”

Virginia is an innovator in online services and became the first state in the nation to offer secure online driver’s license renewals in the 1990s. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, DMV quickly navigated to an appointment-only operational model for in-person service and has increased the number of online transactions to over 50, necessitating fewer in-person visits and prioritizing the health and safety of customers and staff. Some of the most popular online transactions include vehicle registration renewals, driver’s license renewals, and requests for vehicle and driver transcripts.

Credentials ordered online are mailed to the applicant. Please note, the U.S. Postal Service advises it is experiencing unprecedented volume increases and limited employee availability due to the impacts of COVID-19; therefore, the delivery time for DMV materials may be delayed.

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Updated COVID-19 vaccination availability and distribution information



Per the February 22nd release of County COVID-19 Emergency Services Coordinator Rick Farrall, below is the latest information on the progress in distributing COVID-19 vaccines to those wishing to receive it locally as national and state distribution issues are being dealt with additional distribution categories and availability timelines as currently known. Also included again is information for those who might want to register to be volunteer assistants in the local distribution process centered out of the County Health and Human Services Complex on 15th Street:

Above, approaching the 15th Street Warren County Health & Human Services Complex on Massanutten Ave., gym is to left. Below the gym entrance. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

2. Valley Health – VDH Lord Fairfax Health District Vaccine Information (as of 2/22/2020)

Governor Northam Unveils Statewide COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System


Pre-Registration Website & Phone Number: or 1-877-VAX-IN-VA (or 1-877 829-4682)

Locally, VDH and Valley Health officials recommend that anyone who wants the COVID-19 vaccination (and is not currently scheduled to or has already received the vaccination) to pre-register on this website.

In the near future, VDH and Valley Health intend to fully transition to using this “list” by merging all current “lists” and processes into one.

This list is not going to be a first-come, first-served list, but rather will be used to make appointment lists for planned clinics, whose invited patients will favor the more elderly and vulnerable.

All 1a and 1b eligible persons should be able to now sign up. Further information will be shared as it becomes available.

There is a limited amount of vaccine that will be distributed to the Lord Fairfax Health District (includes Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah, Warren, and Winchester) next week. Our local/District system is set up to maximize the distribution of the vaccine, once it is available. The limiting factor is the national supply chain distribution of the vaccine down to the local level. We ask for everyone’s continued patience as we work through this monumental process.

There are no advertised “first dose” vaccination clinics this week at the 15th St. Gym. The recent winter weather has impacted the national supply chain distribution of the vaccine.
i. Related Article:

Valley Health will host two closed COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics at the 15th St. Gym; this is for “the second dose” vaccinations only for those that received the “first dose” on January 27, 2021, report for “second dose” on February 24, 2021, and January 29, 2021, report for “second dose” on February 26, 2021  at the 15th St. Gym. You should receive an email from Valley Health to schedule the “second dose”; check your spam email.

There is no advertised “first dose” vaccination clinics this week at the 15th St. Gym.

VACCINE SIGN-UP: In partnership with Valley Health and the Lord Fairfax Health District, distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine is now occurring in Warren County. For the most up-to-date information on where and when to locally receive the vaccine, visit:

In order to distribute the COVID-19 vaccination in the quickest and most efficient manner, volunteers are needed to fill essential roles in the operation of the Warren County Point of Distribution (POD) site at the 15th St. Gym. The six essential roles are:

Greeter: an adult that checks patients in and directs them to the next station
Navigator: a clinical provider that reviews forms and looks for any “red flags”
Observer: an adult that monitors patients for 15 minutes after the injection of the vaccination to monitor for any adverse side effects; must have Basic Life Support certification or above
Pharmacist: prepares the vaccine for injection; must be currently licensed
Runner/Floater: monitors vaccine inventory and assists in communicating between POD stations
Vaccinator: a health care provider that administers the COVID-19 vaccination; must be a currently licensed/certified LPN, RN, M.D., D.O., AEMT, EMT-I, EMT-P

If you meet the above criteria, and are willing to volunteer during the operation of the COVID-19 POD in Warren County, please visit the below site to sign-up:

Volunteers, including check-in staff, vaccination professionals, and Valley Health staff ready to serve scheduled 1a and 1b eligible citizens inside the Front Royal HHS Complex gym site. As second dose shots are completed for those most vulnerable groups and upside distribution issues are resolved it is hoped vaccine for 1c eligible and the general public is on the horizon.

The CDC’s Advisory Council on Immunization Practices (ACIP) prioritized the initial distribution of the vaccine (as available) to health care personnel (hospital and EMS based) and residents of long-term care facilities. Other Phase I groups (in order) include essential workers, people at higher risk for severe disease (over the age of 75); Phase II – other populations; and Phase III – the general public. Distribution of the COVID-19 vaccination began late last month in Warren County.

December 2020: Lord Fairfax Health District began Phase 1a distribution of the vaccine last week and this week (Clarke and Warren County first responders/age 75+).
1. Health Care personnel (Round 1 complete, Round 2 planned)
2. LTCF Residents and Staff (see below)

January-February 2021: The CDC is allocating the vaccine directly to CVS to vaccinate Phase 1a long term care residents. CVS began this process locally this month (going directly to our long term care facilities).
1. Commonwealth Senior Living (Round 1&2 complete, 3 scheduled)
2. Fox Trail Senior Living (Round 1 complete, Round 2&3 scheduled)
3. Heritage Hall (Round 1 complete 2/17, 2 TBD)
4. Hidden Springs (Round 1&2 complete; 3 TBD)
5. Lynn Care (Round 1&2 complete; Round 3 scheduled 2/15)
6. Shenandoah Senior Living (Round 1&2 complete; 3 scheduled)
7. Woods Cove (Round 1 complete, Round 2 scheduled)

January-February 2021: The next allocation (“Phase 1b”) of vaccinations the County receives will be for front line essential workers and persons age 75 and older. Front line essential workers include (in priority order):
1. Police, Fire, and HAZMAT (Round 1 complete, Round 2 as required)
2. Corrections workers (Round 1 complete, Round 2 as required)
3. Childcare, K-12 Teachers/Staff (Round 1 complete, Round 2 as required)
4. Food and Agriculture (TBD)
5. Manufacturing (TBD)
6. U.S. Postal Service workers (TBD)
7. Public Transit workers (TBD)
8. Grocery Store workers (TBD)
9. Officials needed to maintain continuity of government (TBD)
10. Persons Age 75 (65) and older (Round 1 ongoing, Round 2 scheduled)

The following allocation (“Phase 1c”) of vaccinations will be for other essential workers, persons age 64-75, and persons age 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions. Other essential workers include (in priority order):
1. Transportation and Logistics (all below 1-10 categories planning TBD)
2. Food Service
3. Shelter and Housing (construction)
4. Finance
5. IT and Communication
6. Energy
7. Media
8. Legal
9. Public Safety (engineers)
10. Water and Wastewater

There is no date established for the Phase 1c allocations at this time. No further details available at this time, more to follow.

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