WARREN COUNTY – In what some constituents might consider a rare sighting in the northwestern outreaches of Virginia’s Sixth U.S. Congressional House District, Congressman Goodlatte addressed the weekly luncheon of the Front Royal Rotary Club on Friday, March 2.
Goodlatte was the featured speaker, though for many the emotional high point of the noon gathering at the Blue Ridge Shadows Holiday Inn was the appearance of Denise Eastham, widow of long time Rotary member, former Front Royal mayor and local banker Jim Eastham, who passed last November after a courageous bout against pancreatic cancer.
Mrs. Eastham announced some endowments to local agencies and Rotary left by her husband; and received a little help from her friends in tracking down a certain local tree cutter, whom she insists is going to get paid by her husband for including their property in some tree work, whether he wants to or not.
But back on the political side, Goodlatte opened by acknowledging his post-2017 Election Day decision not to seek re-election in the 2018 Congressional mid-terms. That November 2017 state election saw Democrats erase all but one of the Republican’s 16-seat majority in the State House of Representatives. Citing his future political retirement, Goodlatte said he would miss his constituents, though he admitted some remained “grouchy about me”.
Goodlatte then traced some recent actions and issues on the federal scene. One presidential initiative Goodlatte reserved judgment on was President Trump’s plan announced in recent days to impose hefty tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The Sixth District delegate noted the plan was “making Wall Street nervous” as the specter of a trade war with China and Europe looms.
Otherwise the House Judiciary Committee chairman generally towed the Trump Administration and Republican partisan line on things like tax reform and lowering corporate tax rates; what he termed “mandatory spending programs” like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – they will not be eliminated, but reformed he said; infrastructure spending – singling out nearby Interstate 81 as a target for major improvements; immigration reform, including a long-term fix for DACA addressing the situation of people brought to the U.S. illegally as children, many of whom remember no other home and have become productive members of American society; and finally the issue at the forefront of many people’s minds after another mass school shooting – legislative action on gun control.
In fact, the first three questions asked by Rotary members during a brief question-and-answer session following the delegate’s remarks were about access to semi-automatic weapons and school safety. Goodlatte responded that he does not support a blanket ban on assault rifles of the kind used in the Parkland, Florida high school shooting that left 17 students and teachers dead. Rather, the delegate said he thought Congress should focus on keeping such weapons out of the hands of people “who should not have them.”
Instead of an emphasis on new laws limiting public access to semi-automatic weapons like those used in Parkland, Florida and last year in the Las Vegas concert shooting that was the worst mass murder in U.S. history; Goodlatte said he believed a “lack of enforcement of current laws” was the primary problem on the gun control front. He called for increased prosecution of people who provided false information on gun purchase forms. However, Goodlatte did indicate support for banning so-called bump stocks that essentially turn semi-automatic rifles into the machine guns they were designed to be used as in war zones.
Asked what measures he would “support on Capitol Hill to protect students in school now” Goodlatte pointed to increased training to assure that existing response protocols during attacks were followed and met.
The Congressman also dismissed the idea of raising the age at which semi-automatic assault weapons could be purchased from 18 to 21. He noted states generally controlled age restrictions and observed that people are allowed to enlist in the U.S. military at 18.
Tax reform and loopholes
During a brief interview with the media following the meeting, Goodlatte said he believed the boon to U.S. business from the Republican-Trump tax reform bill would eliminate the $1.5 trillion revenue deficit created by the bill’s largely corporate and top income bracket tax cuts. Of the previous 35% U.S. corporate tax rate – a rate he called the highest in the developed world, reduced to about 21% by the Republican plan – Goodlatte admitted that some major U.S. corporations did not pay that rate when it was in place, at least on paper.
“There are many, many, many companies that pay the full 35%. But there are some big ones, like GE (General Electric), that some years don’t pay any corporate tax. So, that’s also part of the tax reform – they will be paying more under this system. Not as much more as I think they should have been,” Goodlatte said, stating he would have liked to have seen more in the way of closed loopholes in the tax reform plan, but believes overall the plan “will be better for the economy.”
He added that he still believed spending cuts, including for programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that he mentioned earlier, must be addressed or “shame on us.”
Trump tariff threat
Of the Trump tariff plan, Goodlatte elaborated, “I’m still looking at them – it’s a decision that the president gets to make. Congress can respond and we’re looking at whether we should respond. I am very concerned about these huge trade deficits that we run year after year after year. It hurts the U.S. economy greatly when other countries send their products here and they set up barriers of various kinds to keep our products out of their countries. And this is one response that the president has identified that he is taking. But, as I mentioned in my remarks, it has some repercussions for doing so. So, I think we need to look at this.”
And the elephant on the Hill
He also said that as Judiciary Committee chair he and his committee were keeping up with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
“We have followed the matter very, very closely. But we have said we are not going to try to duplicate, replicate the investigation,” the congressman began, then pivoting toward other investigations and investigative agencies. “We have been very concerned about FBI actions taken in their investigation of wrongdoing of former Secretary Clinton and her affiliates. And we’ve been very concerned about potential misuse of authority by the FBI in their seeking to do the investigation here in regard to the so-called Russia influence matter.
“However, we have always said that Mr. Mueller should continue his investigation and that I support that investigation. When he files a report we will certainly look very carefully at what he has to say. But I also will say that there has been nothing that he has shown us so far that would indicate collusion by the Trump campaign with whatever involvement Russia had with attempts to influence our election, which I do think took place.”
Just as images of Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos and happy-hour FBI employee “secret societies” began dancing in this reporter’s head, Goodlatte Chief of Staff Pete Larkin interrupted to say it was time for the congressman to “get going” – which is obviously why he is chief of staff, and a timely one at that. However, he did leave me a staff press contact point by which to submit any follow-up questions.
One vehicle accident downs power lines to Royal Village Wednesday afternoon
The power into Royal Village was interrupted early Wednesday evening as a result of a traffic incident. Town Director of Energy Services David Jenkins responded to Royal Examiner’s request for information on the situation early Thursday morning. Below is the full text of his reply:
“The Energy services department received an online submittal that the power was out in the W 11th St area. a crew was dispatched and upon arrival they found that a vehicle had struck a utility pole that feed’s directly from our Kendrick Lane substation and snapped it off. The crew than began to clear and isolate the primary wire and pole that was on the ground and then proceeded to get the power back on by transferring the loads to another circuit that feeds from our Manassas Avenue substation.
“The pole that was struck also had underground primary feeder attached to it as well. We called in our Public works department for a backhoe to dig up the damaged wire. A contractor for CenturyLink had to be called in to repair the phone lines.
“Power went off at 6:41 pm
“Power back on at 7:27 pm
“Number of customers affected 931”
Information gathered at the scene by Royal Examiner staff indicated the driver of the involved vehicle may have fled the scene on foot.
By late morning Thursday, Front Royal Police Captain Crystal Cline confirmed the arrest of Artavia Michelle Price-Bey for DUI, Property Damage over $1000, and Failure to Maintain Car Insurance, regarding the incident. Price-Bey was transported to RSW Regional Jail and booked into the facility at 9:26 p.m. Wednesday evening. She was released Thursday morning at 11:52 a.m.
Fauquier Health physician services implements telemedicine capabilities
Fauquier Health physician clinics have implemented telemedicine capabilities. This announcement follows the Trump administration’s unprecedented expansion of telehealth services.
For patients who meet certain clinical criteria, Fauquier Health providers are working around the clock to offer two types of telehealth visit options: telephonic and televideo. A telephonic visit is simply a patient phone call with a provider. A televideo visit is a virtual, face-to-face visit via a platform that allows the provider to utilize a video conferencing service. Virtual visits may not be available in all cases and will be evaluated based on a patient’s specific clinical needs.
Brian DeCastro, MD, Fauquier Health Urology, said the Urology practice has successfully conducted several telephonic and televideo visits. Dr. DeCastro shared, “We have to get creative in these unique times. Telehealth is an excellent way to keep providing the care that is needed for the patients. It keeps the providers and patients from unnecessary exposure to COVID-19. In the end it can also help patients stay away from unnecessary hospital and emergency room visits. We are currently offering same day visits.”
In addition to the specialty clinics, telehealth is becoming an integral part for internal medicine and family practice. Providers see telemedicine as a tool to increase access to routine healthcare needs. According to Joseph David, MD, Piedmont Internal Medicine, community residents of all ages should see telehealth as a way for them stay connected with their medical care team. Dr. David shared, “This technology will allow our older patients, who are at higher risk, to have virtual house calls without needing transportation. For our patients who are commuting, it will allow them to have care without having to lose time from work. Once we work through the growing pains we will wonder how we managed without it.”
Providers are the first to admit healthcare needs are facing challenging times during this pandemic. According to Kyle Song, DO, Family Practice at Bealeton, Fauquier Health has been doing their utmost to help the community. He commented, “At the Family Practice in Bealeton, in order to protect our community, patients and staff, we have postponed routine health visits and have initiated telehealth visits. These types of visits will still allow us to continue providing care to our patients while protecting them.” When asked how patients can best protect themselves, Dr. Song said, “We urge everyone to please continue handwashing – soap and water is best – cover coughs, continue social distancing and stay home unless absolutely necessary.” One of the frequently asked questions we see is what if you still get sick? You should call your primary care provider to get direction on where and how to proceed with your symptoms. Dr. Song went on to comment, “In this difficult time, if everyone does their part and we all work together as a community, we will get through this.”
Patients can request a telehealth visit by calling their provider’s office, just as they would for an in-person visit. A patient can also request on appointment online if they are properly set up through the online patient portal. It is important to note that patients will not be able to request an appointment through the website online scheduling features. The provider will determine if a telehealth visit is appropriate based on the patient’s health condition. If the virtual visit is deemed clinically appropriate, the patient will be given an appointment time and instructions for the best way to connect given the available platforms. Then, instead of coming to the office, he or she would call back at the scheduled time and be “checked in” by a nurse or office manager, and then transferred to the provider for the call or two-way video.
Mary Gray, Market Manager of Fauquier Health Physician Services, commented on Fauquier Health’s initiatives surrounding telemedicine offerings, “We have been working diligently to ensure our clinics have the appropriate plans in place to continue providing care to our patients while also preventing the spread of illness. We are excited to share with you our new telehealth options. Whether you want to set up a televideo conference with your provider or a telephonic visit, we can provide the care you need. Please call your provider’s office to learn more information.”
A few restrictions on telephonic visits may apply, including that they cannot be utilized to treat patients for a condition that the patient has been seen for in the previous seven days, and they cannot be used to treat a condition that the patient is already coming in for within the next 24 hours.
Patients who are concerned they may be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 are encouraged to consider telemedicine appointments to help further reduce the spread of the respiratory virus. Leveraging telemedicine also conserves personal protective equipment (PPE) and other clinical resources that are needed when treating a patient with suspected COVID-19 in a clinic or hospital setting. Should patients be concerned or have questions about COVID-19, they are urged not to call the emergency department. Rather, they should contact their provider’s office for guidance or call the dedicated Virginia Department of Health (VDH) hotline at 1-877-ASK-VDH3.
Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – April 8, 2020
Town Talk: A conversation with Mayor Eugene Tewalt
Town Talk is a series on the Royal Examiner where we will introduce you to local entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profit leaders and political figures who influence Warren County. Topics will be varied but hopefully interesting. If you have an idea, topic or want to hear from someone in our community, let us know. Send your request to news@RoyalExaminer.com
In this Town Talk, we’ll have a conversation with Mayor Eugene Tewalt. Town of Front Royal Mayor Eugene Tewalt stopped by Royal Examiner’s studio and provided us with an update report on the emergency response process underway and a projected budget shortfall that will be discussed at the next Town Council work session On Thursday, April 9th.
Shenandoah National Park will temporarily close
The National Park Service (NPS) received a letter from the Rappahannock Rapidan Health District of the Virginia Department of Health recommending the full closure of Shenandoah National Park. Upon receiving this request from the health department, Superintendent Jennifer Flynn, with the support of the NPS Deputy Director, Operations, David Vela and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, made the decision to immediately close the park until further notice.
Virginia State Highways 211 and 33 will remain accessible to pass-through.
The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners is our number one priority. The NPS is working service-wide with federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic. The park will notify the public when it resumes full operations and provides updates on the park website https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/alerts.htm and social media channels.
The NPS encourages people to take advantage of the many digital tools already available to explore Shenandoah National Park, including:
• Visit our website for interactives, photo galleries, videos, and webcams: https://www.nps.gov/shen/learn/photosmultimedia/index.htm
• Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/ShenandoahNPS
Updates about NPS operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus. Please visit www.goshenandoah.com for updates about park concessioner, Delaware North’s operations.
Governor Northam announces plans to postpone upcoming Virginia elections in response to COVID-19
~ Governor delays June primary by two weeks asks General Assembly to move May elections to November ~
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today (April 8, 2020) requested the General Assembly move the May General Election and all special elections scheduled for May 5, 2020, to the November 3, 2020, General Election date to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The Governor is also exercising his statutory authority (§ 24.2-603.1 of the Code of Virginia) to move the June primary elections from June 9, 2020, to June 23, 2020.
“As other states have shown, conducting an election in the middle of this global pandemic would bring unprecedented challenges and the potential risk to voters and those who work at polling places across the Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “Making these decisions now will help election officials prepare and implement the necessary changes. This is about protecting the health and safety of Virginians during this pandemic and ensuring our citizens can make their voices heard in a safe, fair, and uniform manner. I urge the General Assembly to do their part and take action to move our upcoming elections.”
“Free and fair elections are at the core of our democracy and no Virginian should have to choose between their health and exercising their right to vote, said Attorney General Herring. “I’m proud to have worked closely with Governor Northam and his team on a solution that protects both public health and the integrity of our elections.”
Moving the upcoming May elections requires action by the General Assembly. The plan the Governor is proposing includes the following measures:
• There will be one ballot in November.
• Voters who are qualified in November will be able to vote in November. An individual who was not qualified in May but is qualified in November will be able to vote.
• All absentee ballots already cast will be discarded. Virginians will have an opportunity to vote for local elected officials in November.
• Those officials whose terms are to expire as of June 30, 2020, will continue in office until their successors have been elected on November 3, 2020, and have been qualified to serve.
For additional resources and information about Virginia’s COVID-19 response, please visit virginia.gov/coronavirus.