Self-guided hike: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: Appalachian Trailhead (between Peters and Rector Lodge)
Campfire and S’mores: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Location: Campfire Circle across from Fairfax Shelter
Things to Bring: Please wear hiking shoes or boots, dress for the weather, bring water, camera, binoculars, and your four legged family (on a leash please).
Description: Bring in the New Year by going for a fun, family-friendly hike on the Appalachian Trail. Hikes will be self-guided so you may choose to hike as long as you would like! Drop in anytime between 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the campfire circle for a warm fire, along with s’mores. If you take photos along your First Day Hike we would love to see them by social media, using the hashtag #nova4h. We are looking forward to starting the New Year on the right foot with you. Donations welcomed! For more information please call (540)635-7171 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
*Please note that the restrooms are closed due to winterization of facilities.
Winchester Police on point of carjacking suspect arrest in Front Royal
On April 2, 2020, at approximately 7:15 a.m., the Winchester Police Department (WPD), assisted by other law enforcement agencies, executed a search warrant at 218 East 6th Street in Front Royal, VA following an ongoing investigation into a carjacking in the City of Winchester. As a result of the investigation and search warrant, Diontre Tyrese Bell, 20 years old, of the above address in Front Royal, was arrested and charged with carjacking, robbery, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
On March 28, 2020, at approximately 12:30 a.m., WPD was alerted to a motor vehicle theft that had just occurred in the 100 blocks of East Pall Mall Street. Upon investigation into the incident, detectives learned that the male victim was standing outside his 1990 Dodge Caravan when he was approached by a group of males. One of the males, later identified as Diontre Bell, grabbed the backpack the victim was wearing and took items including a firearm and keys to the van. Threatening statements were made during the encounter. No injuries were sustained during the incident. The van was later recovered on March 30th, parked and unoccupied, along the roadway in the 1300 block of South Braddock Street.
During the execution of the search warrant, two cell phones were seized and DNA was collected. Bell is being held at the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Detention Center without bond. The Winchester Police Department would like to publicly thank the Front Royal Police Department, Warren County Sheriff’s Office and the Northwest Regional Drug Task Force for their assistance in the investigation.
Virginia receives major disaster declaration from Federal Government for COVID-19
~ Declaration provides additional support, federal funding to aid statewide response ~
RICHMOND—On April 2nd, Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia has received a Major Disaster Declaration to aid in the Commonwealth’s response to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Governor Northam requested this federal disaster assistance on Monday, March 30.
A Major Disaster Declaration designation provides federal public assistance for all areas in the Commonwealth of Virginia affected by COVID-19 at a federal cost share of 75 percent. This allows state agencies, local governments, and certain non-profit organizations to purchase additional supplies and receive reimbursements for COVID-19 related costs under its Public Assistance program. In addition, the Major Disaster Declaration authorizes federal agencies to provide direct emergency assistance to Virginia.
“We thank the federal government for moving quickly to approve Virginia’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration,” said Governor Northam. “This critical funding will support our ongoing, statewide efforts to fight this virus in our Commonwealth and keep Virginians safe.”
On Friday, March 27, the Commonwealth received authorization for Title 32 funding to support the Virginia National Guard. Governor Northam has taken several additional actions to protect the health and safety of all Virginians amid the COVID-19 outbreak, including issuing a statewide Stay at Home order, closing all K-12 schools in Virginia through the remainder of the academic year, and mandating strict social distancing guidelines.
For additional resources and information about Virginia’s COVID-19 response, please visit virginia.gov/coronavirus.
COVID-19 Emergency Management Team briefing number 2: Community, patience with restrictions, and expanded Schools free-lunch program
At the second of weekly briefings, the joint Warren County-Town of Front Royal COVID-19 pandemic Emergency Management Team was joined by Lord Fairfax Health District (LFHD) Director Dr. Colin Greene and Warren County Public Schools Acting Superintendent Melody Sheppard.
County Board and Management Team Chairman Walter Mabe opened the 3:30 p.m., Thursday afternoon, April 2nd roundtable discussion and question and answer media session with a brief review of public and personal health do’s and don’ts and online sources of information, as well as a call for a community response to the threat of the pandemic.
“The other thing we’re asking you to do is to help others. Not everybody that you know has access to the Internet … They are people who are your neighbors, they’re your friends and associates that may not have the Internet. They need to be spoken to … and told what they need to do, especially for just the simple things that we’re trying to do,” Mabe said of neighbors helping neighbors at a time when social distancing is a pandemic response key phrase.
But whether it’s at the suggested 6-foot face-to-face distance, or by phone, Mabe said we can maintain our sense of community through the pandemic response period, however long it may last.
And how long, among other medical and statistical variables, were among topics touched on by Dr. Greene. The doctor pointed out that the basic recommendations of frequent hand washing and other precautionary tactics will be worth keeping beyond the first wave of COVID-19 in the nation and localities across the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Dr. Greene said there have now been four confirmed COVID-19 cases among Warren County residents, though he added that they may not have all been identified by testing at Valley Health’s station at its Commerce Avenue site in Front Royal. He also said the number of confirmed cases in the six-municipality LFHD has risen to 43, with a nearly even split between men and women.
Most of that number has been between the ages of 40 and 70, with a spectrum from “under 20 to over 80”. Thus far, none of Virginia’s 41 fatalities have been in our health district that includes the City of Winchester, Clarke, Frederick, Warren, Shenandoah and Page Counties.
Dr. Greene declined to speculate on how many actual cases in the health district or commonwealth there may be. As the State Health Department website notes, only 17,589 of Virginia’s 8.62 million population have been tested.
He also updated national statistics, including about 225,000 confirmed cases and 5200 deaths in the U.S. – about a 2% fatality rate. It is a rate the mandated restrictions many states and cities are implementing are hoped to maintain or decrease from higher numbers seen elsewhere, including Europe. Greene noted death rates from 6% to 11% in Western Europe, with Italy holding that high number, followed by Spain’s 9% fatality rate. Only Germany at about 1.2% has a lower fatality rate among western European nations than the U.S. currently has, Greene said.
Free Lunch Program expanding
Following Dr. Greene’s question-and-answer with the media, Public School Acting Superintendent Sheppard traced the free lunch distribution program schedule, stops and times. The school system is expanding its free lunch program available to most students under the age of 18, out into the community through the state-mandated school closings. She also explained that while the doors are closed to the County’s bricks and mortar educational sites, education continues through online and other methods to see the county’s students are not robbed of this school semester or year.
If you missed the live stream video, or even if you didn’t, see the full COVID-19 Emergency Management Team briefing in this Royal Examiner video – there is information included that you, and your neighbors, need to know:
Coronavirus update: Deaths soar, supplies remain short, convention rescheduled
WASHINGTON — The federal government offered increased financial aid to communities Thursday (April 2) as states continued pleading for more medical equipment to address the novel coronavirus in preparation for the pandemic’s peak.
Over 234,460 cases and almost 5,650 deaths were confirmed across the country as of Thursday afternoon, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering data dashboard. Health experts and the administration warned that the worst is yet to come.
Democratic National Convention pushed back
The Democratic National Convention, originally scheduled to start July 13 in Milwaukee, will be postponed a month due to the pandemic.
“In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds so we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention,” Joe Solmonese, the convention committee’s CEO, said in a statement Thursday.
The convention is now set to run for four days starting on Aug. 17.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who’s leading the delegate count for the Democratic presidential nomination, was vocal about his uncertainty surrounding the convention before the schedule change as the coronavirus continued to exponentially affect Americans.
“I doubt whether the Democratic convention is going to be able to be held in mid-July,” Biden told Jimmy Fallon during an appearance on the “The Tonight Show” Wednesday night. “I think it’s going to have to move into August.”
The Republican presidential nominating convention is expected to start as planned on Aug. 24 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Fifteen states and Puerto Rico have delayed their primaries because of the coronavirus as of Wednesday, while upcoming votes in states including Alaska and Wyoming are expected to be conducted completely by mail.
White House announces counter-narcotics mission amid growing coronavirus crisis
President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that the United States was launching an operation to curb the presence of illegal narcotics in the country as the pandemic persisted.
“We must not let the drug cartels exploit the pandemic to threaten American lives,” the president said during the daily White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing.
The U.S. Southern Command will ramp up surveillance and seizures of drug shipments with cooperation from 22 other nations, according to Trump. Additional deployment of the Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force would help in “doubling our capabilities in the region,” the president said.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters that the initiative is part of the administration’s “whole-of-government approach.”
“At a time when the nation and the Department of Defense are focused on protecting the American people from the spread of the coronavirus, we also remain vigilant to the many other threats our country faces,” Esper said.
The announcement came as the country geared up for its peak in coronavirus cases and states pleaded for additional medical equipment to combat the virus.
Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said intelligence showed that drug cartels were going to “take advantage of the situation and try to infiltrate additional drugs into our country.”
New FEMA documents show medical supply shortage despite states’ requests
Only a fraction of protective equipment and medical supplies requested by five states and the District of Columbia were delivered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), new agency documents show.
As of Monday, less than 10% of the requested 5.2 million N95 masks, less than 1% of the 194 million requested gloves and none of the 15,000 body bags were sent to FEMA’s third region. Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia comprise this area.
“The new documents…confirm the urgent warnings we have been hearing from our nation’s governors and health care professionals for weeks,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, said in a statement Thursday.
Maloney, who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said a Wednesday briefing with FEMA and Health and Human Services Department officials exposed other equipment shortages. The demand for ventilators “outstrips the capacity” of the national demand, according to FEMA, and the shortage is expected to worsen.
To combat supply shortages, FEMA told lawmakers that medical professionals should be re-using protective equipment despite the increased risk of contracting the coronavirus that comes with this practice.
“Rather than casting doubt on the gravity of this pandemic, the administration should have been working around the clock to prepare and execute plans to obtain desperately needed personal protective equipment and medical supplies,” Maloney said.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, called the findings “alarming.”
“We already know that the White House delayed taking action for weeks as the virus spread,” he said in a statement. “Now we are seeing further evidence of mismanagement in this emergency with its failure to answer states’ dire requests for masks, gloves, and other critical supplies needed by health care workers.”
Hoyer added: “It is unconscionable that FEMA would ask our frontline health care workers to re-use personal protective equipment, putting their lives and the health of their families at great risk.”
Maryland, D.C. unemployment insurance claims skyrocket amid a pandemic
Over 83,000 Maryland residents and almost 15,000 District of Columbia residents filed for unemployment benefits last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor data released Thursday.
Maryland residents who filed unemployment claims doubled from the previous week, making a total of over 120,000 claims in the past two weeks ending on March 28. In the District, residents filed almost 44,000 claims since mid-March, which is already more than the 27,000 claims that D.C. residents filed during 2019.
Over 6.6 million American residents applied for unemployment benefits last week, a record number that helped make a total of more than 10 million American unemployment claims in the month of March due to COVID-19.
Hoyer said in a statement that the unemployment claims data “demonstrates the urgency with which the federal government must step up rather than down.”
By BRYAN GALLION and HALEIGH WHISTED
Capital News Service
Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force, IRS-CI warn of potential COVID-19 Economic Impact Payment scams
ROANOKE – The Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI) are warning taxpayers to be alert about possible scams relating to COVID-19 economic impact payments.
United States Attorneys Thomas T. Cullen and G. Zachary Terwilliger, along with Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-CI Washington DC Field Office, made the announcement today in an effort to prevent taxpayers in need from being victimized by criminals using the recently approved payments as an opportunity to commit a crime.
“During this time of crisis, scammers and thieves prey on those most vulnerable in our community in an attempt to personally benefit by stealing their money and personal identifying information,” Special Agent in Charge Jackson said today. “Please help us protect everyone in your community by telling family, friends and elderly neighbors to be on the lookout for these potential scams.”
“While most act selflessly and responsibly in a crisis like this, there are fraudsters out there who are attempting to scam and exploit good people,” said U.S. Attorney Terwilliger. “We are likely to see an uptick in government check scams tied to coronavirus-relief, including advanced-fee schemes promising government relief checks, student loan relief, and adjustments in other government benefits, such as increased social security payments. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
“As we have seen over the past few weeks, the worst among us are finding new ways to exploit a global pandemic and prey upon the vulnerable,” said U.S. Attorney Cullen. “Americans need to be extremely vigilant in protecting their personal, financial, and tax information. Assume all unsolicited phone calls and emails regarding IRS or COVID-19 refunds and are potentially fraudulent. Do not respond and report them to law enforcement.”
In a matter of weeks, COVID-19 economic impact payments will be on their way. For most Americans, this will be a direct deposit into your bank account. For the unbanked individuals who have traditionally received tax refunds via paper check, they will receive their economic impact payment through the mail.
Scammers may try to get you to sign over your check to them or get you to “verify” your filing information in order to steal your money. Your personal information could then be used to file false tax returns in an identity theft scheme. Because of this, everyone receiving a COVID-19 economic impact payment is at risk.
Special Agent in Charge Jackson offers the following information and tips to spot a scam and understand how the COVID-19 related economic impact payments will be issued.
• The IRS will deposit your payment into the direct deposit account you previously provided on your tax return (or, in the alternative, send you a paper check).
• The IRS will NOT call and ask you to verify your payment details. Do NOT give your bank account, debit account, or PayPal account information to anyone – even if someone claims it’s necessary to get your check. It’s a scam.
• If you receive a call, do NOT engage with scammers, even if you want to tell them that you know it’s a scam. Just hang up.
• If you receive texts or emails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal identifying information or clicking on links, delete these texts and emails. Do NOT click on any links in those texts or emails.
• Reports are swirling about bogus checks. If you receive a “check” in the mail now, it’s a scam. It will take the Treasury a few more weeks to mail out the COVID-19 economic impact payments. If you receive a “check” for an odd amount (especially one with cents), or a check that requires you to verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s a scam.
• Remember, the federal government will not ask you to pay anything upfront to get a legitimate benefit. No fees. No charges. Anyone who asks for an up-front payment for a promised benefit is a scammer.
The Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force:
Western Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Baudinet, USAVAW.COVID19@usdoj.gov or 540-278-1494.
Eastern Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kaitlin G. Cooke, Kaitlin.Cooke@usdoj.gov or 804-819-5416.
To report a COVID-19 fraud scheme or suspicious activity, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) by calling the NCDF Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or sending an email to email@example.com.
For more information, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov/coronavirus
FBI at: https://www.ic3.gov or 804-261-1044.
To report fraudulent activity to the Virginia State Police, Virginians can contact the Virginia Fusion Center (VFC) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For continuing information on the COVID-19 virus and the federal response, check https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
School Board delays superintendent search; approves emergency childcare, other expenses
The Warren County School Board on April 1 temporarily suspended the superintendent search process for the school division in compliance with state and federal stay-at-home orders.
The superintendent search firm, Real Synergy LLC, “stands ready to immediately move forward to the interview phase once orders have been lifted,” according to a statement released Wednesday by the School Board.
Once the search resumes, “eight qualified candidates will be reviewed by the Warren County School Board for an interview,” David Martin, president of Real Synergy, told the Royal Examiner today.
Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) Interim Superintendent Melody Sheppard will continue in her current role until a new superintendent is hired.
The School Board also conducted its regular April 1 meeting via live stream, unanimously approving several action agenda items. Warren County School Board Chairman Arnold Williams Jr., and School Board members Catherine Bower, James Wells, and Kristen Pence were present during the meeting, while School Board member Ralph Rinaldi participated electronically from a remote location.
The board voted unanimously to approve the following action agenda items:
1. Purchase of K-5 English textbooks totaling $462,094.92. Lisa Rudacille, director of elementary instruction for WCPS, requested the additional appropriation and recommended that WCPS adopt and, contingent upon available funds, purchase the Into Reading series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for kindergarten through fifth grade English to be used starting in the 2020-2021 school year. Rudacille told School Board members that it’s been eight years since K-5 students had new reading textbooks based on the state’s textbook adoption process, which follows a seven-year cycle. This is the year in which school divisions are required to adopt English textbooks, she said. The Into Reading series was suggested for purchase based on review of and feedback from kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers, school literacy coaches, and Instructional Resource Team members, said Rudacille.
2. Purchase of the license and subscription for Unified Talent’s Applicant Tracking, Records, and School Spring Job Board system, which includes training and set up fees in the amount of $26,100. George “Bucky” Smith, WCPS director of personnel, said the electronic system is needed by the WCPS Human Resources Department to better serve WCPS employees and future candidates. The system will provide more updated and efficient services, including those to streamline applicant tracking, onboarding of new employees and record retention.
In addition, the system will provide a new platform with School Spring Job Board for online recruiting. “Our current system consists of excel spreadsheets and manual forms and doesn’t lend itself to an efficient process,” Smith told School Board members, likening the system to Monster or Indeed job sites, just tailored to education. Additionally, employee accounts may be set up to basically build portfolios for each person, complete with tasks, scheduled or required trainings or certifications, and needed documentation, among other items. up each staffer’s portfolio. Funding for the system will come from 2019-2020 staff turnover funds, Smith said. School Board Chairman Williams said he thinks “it’s well worth the money to move to an electronic system.”
3. Emergency Child Care Program costing up to $25,700 per month. As part of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s order to close all public and private schools, daycares were asked to prioritize services for children of essential personnel, Sheppard explained. While Northam asked all families to keep their children home if possible, he simultaneously called on communities to provide emergency childcare to young and school-aged children of essential personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
Toward that end, WCPS and the Warren County School Age Care program on April 2 started a free emergency childcare program for local essential personnel, who include first-responders, healthcare workers, grocery employees, criminal justice personnel, certain government employees, shelter operators, pharmacy staff, and others who help maintain the health, safety, and welfare of Warren County residents. The free program is only for potty-trained children ages 3 through 12 years, said Sheppard, and will operate Monday through Friday, 5:45 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. at Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School. Registration was held on March 30.
Program funds are reimbursable as part of the emergency cost recovery process, according to Sheppard, who added that another site will be opening at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary. Information will be forthcoming. A school nurse is on duty each day and free breakfast and lunch are offered daily at the program. “Hats off to the way this was put together,” Williams said. School Board Vice Chairwoman Bower called the program a “great asset to our community during these hard times.”
4. Correction to fiscal year (FY) 2020 Warren County appropriation and adjustment to FY 2021 proposed increase in Warren County appropriation. Sheppard told School Board members that during conversations with the Warren County staff, it was learned that the current year County appropriation to WCPS is actually $246,492 less than that in the approved WCPS FY 2020 budget.
“This is the amount of savings the schools realized when grounds keeping responsibilities were transferred from the schools to the County,” she explained. “At the time the FY 2020 budget was approved, it was communicated to the schools by the County that even though this cost savings ($246,492) was being realized by the schools, County funding would not be reduced by this amount.”
The County has since realized that this understanding was not reflected in the official County budget that was adopted in April 2019, according to Sheppard, so County funding will be $246,492 less than the amount upon which the FY 2020 WCPS budget is built. On the plus side, though, Sheppard said that due to staff turnover savings, as well as savings from reduced school operations for the final four months of the school year due to the pandemic emergency, the WCPS budget will be able to handle this revenue adjustment for the current school year. However, the adjustment also affects the upcoming FY 2021 proposed budget.
While the total amount of the requested County appropriation remains the same, the amount of the increase in the County appropriation is $246,492 more than previously calculated, said Sheppard, who noted that the revised increase in the County appropriation is $513,692 or 1.9 percent, compared to the original request that was $267,200 or 1 percent. “So we’re going to eat the $246,492?” Williams asked. “We don’t have a choice,” said WCPS Finance Director Robert Ballentine. “The county is aware of it and brought it to our attention. We were led to believe it was included in this year’s budget, but it wasn’t.”
Additionally, Sheppard discussed with the School Board a proposal to increase the cost of school meals for the 2020-2021 school year.
Per the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 federal law, school divisions participating in the National School Lunch Program are required to ensure that sufficient funds are provided to account for meals served to students not eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Schools charging less than an average of $3.09 for paid lunches must adjust the full-meal price to cover the difference, said Sheppard.
WCPS currently charges elementary students $2.10 for lunch and charges middle and high school students $2.20 for lunch. Based on the food services fund balance and the increased cost of food, Sheppard plans to make a recommendation to increase lunch prices by 10 cents for elementary, middle and high school students, and to increase the breakfast price by 10 cents to $1.35.
“This will be the first time the breakfast price has increased since the 2014-2015 school year,” she added.
Because E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School participates in the Community Eligibility Program, there will continue to be no charge for breakfast or lunch at the school, Sheppard said.
No action was necessary on the item, but Sheppard said she will make a recommendation for approval at the School Board’s Wednesday, April 15 meeting.
This video of the live stream provided by the Warren County School Board.