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Governor Northam announces expansion of data-sharing platform designed to help Virginia fight the opioid crisis

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ROANOKE—Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia’s Framework for Addiction Analysis and Community Transformation (FAACT), a data-sharing platform designed to help the Commonwealth fight the opioid crisis, will expand to the Roanoke Valley and continue operating in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

FAACT began in 2017 as a collaboration between the Virginia Departments of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) to develop and implement a platform to share data across government agencies and local organizations. The platform was initially funded by a federal Technology Innovation for Public Safety (TIPS) grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance. During the two-year grant, DCJS contracted with Qlarion Inc., to develop the FAACT platform and deploy a pilot project in the Northern Shenandoah Valley. FACCT has been successfully operating and providing stakeholders with opioid-use data in this region since December 2018.

“As a Commonwealth, we must be strategic and proactive in helping individuals struggling with addiction and addressing the opioid crisis in our communities,” said Governor Northam. “As a physician, I know that we cannot defeat this epidemic in isolation. With the expansion of this platform, we will enable more of our government agencies and local organizations to share important data and improve their ability to work together to translate that information into real solutions that can save lives.”

The secure data-sharing platform has combined formerly separate data sets from across a variety of different government agencies, law enforcement agencies, and local organizations—including healthcare and social services, public safety and corrections, drug courts, and community coalitions—to generate insights about the contributing factors to opioid abuse and the most effective ways for communities to respond.

“Everyone has long been in agreement that we cannot arrest our way out of the opioid crisis,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran. “These collaborative efforts provide valuable insight that supports a targeted, evidence-based response to the epidemic, which claims the lives of over 1,000 Virginians each year.”

FAACT enables users at the state and local level to use empirical data to proactively address the opioid crisis. A self-service analytics layer allows the participating organizations to create reports and dashboards, look at incident maps, and more effectively collaborate with each other.

“We launched the platform in the Winchester region nine months ago,” said Lauren Cummings, Executive Director of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Council. “Based on the collective analysis of the platform, we have gained incredible insight, like when our area has experienced a spike in overdoses, and in turn we have been able to deploy resources and make key adjustments to prevent further harm.”

“We’re already seeing the benefits that come from combining data sets to focus our efforts,” said Carlos Rivero, Chief Data Officer for the Commonwealth of Virginia. “With Qlarion and other technology partners, we are well on our way to creating a data-sharing and analytics platform for the entire Commonwealth.”

“Qlarion is working hand-in-hand with the Commonwealth and community leaders to understand the gaps in their data,” said Jake Bittner, CEO of Qlarion, Inc. “Through this process we can help to integrate data sets, the analysis of which provides users with previously unavailable information.”

Based on the success of the initiative in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, the platform is being expanded to the Roanoke Valley, which saw opioid-related deaths quadruple between 2016 and 2017. Qlarion, Inc. will be working closely with the Roanoke Valley Collective Response to ensure that Roanoke’s critical partners are engaged.

“The data provided by this platform will help us get to evidence-based solutions faster, with greater assurance that services are tailored to our community culture and needs,” said Kimberly Horn, Co-Chair of the Roanoke Valley Collective Response and professor and scientist at the Virginia Tech-Carilion Fralin Biomedical Research Institute.

“Access to the FAACT system will allow our region to share information and coordinate our response,” said Nancy Hans, Co-Chair of the Roanoke Valley Collective Response and Executive Director of the Prevention Council of Roanoke. “This will enhance our abilities and understanding of what is happening in our community, and enable us to better address the issues we’re seeing.”

“As additional regions of the Commonwealth join the platform, we’ll have a more holistic view about both opioid addiction and effective treatment plans across the state,” said DCJS Director Shannon Dion. “This information will not only enable us to disperse funding more effectively, but also direct our technical assistance to the areas that need it the most.”

“By expanding our efforts into additional areas of the Commonwealth and continuing to broaden our knowledge about causal factors, we can help more Virginians access critical and potentially life-saving treatment,” said Acting DBHDS Commissioner Mira Signer.

The continuation and expansion of this initiative is funded through a federal State Opioid Response grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). These federal grants are designed to help states fight the opioid epidemic through the provision of prevention, treatment, and recovery activities for opioid use disorder.

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Virginia State Police urging travel safety during tropical storm

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As the Virginia State Police prepares for Tropical Storm Isaias, Virginians are encouraged to get ready and plan ahead, too. Forecasts are currently calling for the eastern and central regions of the Commonwealth to be significantly impacted by heavy rains and strong winds.

Virginia State Police have all available troopers and supervisors working through the night and Tuesday as the storm makes its way across the Commonwealth. To prevent unnecessary traffic crashes from occurring on Virginia’s highways during the storm, state police advises residents to postpone travel plans and avoid driving, when possible.

If having to travel during the storm, drivers are reminded to do the following:

  • Slow your speed. Though state police works closely with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to identify problem areas on Virginia’s highways during a storm, drivers still must drive for conditions. Slowing your speed gives you more time to safely react and avoid a crash, downed trees and/or debris in the roadway. Drive your vehicle based on your ability to properly maintain control of your vehicle.
  • Turn Around. Don’t Drown. Never drive through standing water. What looks like a puddle can be deep and swift-moving water. Turn around and find another, safer route to your destination.
  • Don’t tailgate. You need increased stopping distance on wet road surfaces. Give yourself more space between vehicles traveling ahead of you in order to avoid rear end collisions.
  • Use headlights. Increasing your visibility helps you to avoid standing water and/or flooding. Headlights also help other drivers see you better, especially in a downpour when visibility is limited.
  • Buckle Up. Most crashes that occur during inclement weather are caused by vehicles sliding off the road or other vehicles. Wearing your seat belt protects you from being thrown around the inside of your vehicle and suffering serious injury in a crash.
  • Put down your phone. Having to drive in heavy rain requires a driver’s full, uninterrupted attention. Do not text and drive or shoot video of the bad conditions while driving, as these actions put you, your passengers and other vehicles at extreme risk of a crash and/or injury.
  • Check Your Vehicle. Make sure your vehicle is in good working order for the conditions. Fill up the tank in advance. Check windshield wipers, tire tread, battery life, etc.

For the latest in road conditions and updates, please call 511 on a cell phone, download the App or go online to the VDOT Virginia Traffic Information Website at www.511virginia.org.

Virginians are advised to only call 911 or #77 on a cell phone in case of emergency. It is essential to keep emergency dispatch lines open for those in serious need of police, fire or medical response.

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Governor Northam declares State of Emergency in advance of Hurricane Isaias

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Governor Ralph Northam today declared a state of emergency in advance of Hurricane Isaias, which is expected to impact parts of coastal Virginia starting on Monday, August 3, 2020.

“Hurricane Isaias is a serious storm, and current predictions indicate that it may impact parts of Virginia as early as this weekend,” said Governor Northam. “This state of emergency will ensure localities and communities have the assistance they need to protect the safety of Virginians, particularly as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. I encourage Virginians to take all necessary precautions, monitor local weather forecasts, and stay alert.”

A state of emergency allows the Commonwealth to mobilize resources and equipment needed for response and recovery efforts. While the track of Hurricane Isaias is still uncertain, it appears increasingly likely that Virginia could see impacts and therefore must prepare for the possibility of flooding, high winds, and potential storm surge that could come along with a tropical storm or hurricane.

Virginians are encouraged to consult the Virginia Hurricane Evacuation Guide During the COVID-19 Pandemic, which outlines preparedness, response, and recovery actions designed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and protect public health.

The Virginia Emergency Support Team (VEST) is actively monitoring the situation and coordinating resources and information to prepare for this storm. The Virginia Emergency Operations Center (VEOC) will coordinate preparedness efforts with local, state, and federal officials.

The full text of Executive Order Sixty-Nine is available here.

Recommendations for Virginians

• Know your zone. Evacuation may become necessary depending on the track and severity of the storm. Review Virginia’s evacuation zones at KnowYourZoneVA.org. It is important to note that the zone colors have been updated for 2020. Users can enter their physical address in the search bar of the website to view and confirm their designated evacuation zone. If the internet or computer access is not available, call 2-1-1 to learn your zone. Residents not residing in a pre-identified evacuation zone should listen to evacuation orders from local and state emergency agencies to determine if and when to evacuate.

• Make a plan. Virginians residing in eastern and coastal Virginia should consult the Virginia Hurricane Evacuation Guide During the COVID-19 Pandemic, which outlines ways to prepare for both weather and pandemic-related risks. Additional planning resources are available at ready.gov/plan.

• Prepare an emergency kit. For a list of recommended emergency supplies to sustain your household before, during, and after the storm visit VAemergency.gov/emergency-kit. Given the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, emergency kits should include face coverings and sanitization supplies.

• Stay informed. Virginians should follow the Virginia Department of Emergency Management on Twitter and Facebook for preparedness updates and their local National Weather Service office for the latest weather forecast, advisories, watches, or warnings. Download the FEMA app on your smartphone to receive mobile alerts from the National Weather Service. Power outages are always a concern during weather events—make sure you have a battery-operated radio available so you can still receive life-saving alerts.

For more information about preparing your business, your family, and your property against hurricane threats visit VAemergency.gov/hurricanes and ready.gov/hurricanes. Additional information about preparing for hurricanes during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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AG Herring again defends Virginia’s COVID safety measures

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Attorney General Mark R. Herring has again successfully defended Virginia’s COVID safety measures against legal challenge, making it at least the 13th decision Attorney General Herring and his team have won in defense of the Commonwealth’s COVID mitigation efforts that were put in place to prevent the spread of the virus and keep Virginians and their families and communities safe and healthy.

“Science has shown us that Virginia’s COVID mitigation efforts are proven effective in preventing further spread of the virus and keeping Virginians safe,” said Attorney General Herring. “As we continue to see a surge of cases around the country, including certain areas of Virginia, we know that we must continue to adhere to these critical safety measures to keep Virginians healthy. I am pleased we were once again able to successfully defend these important COVID mitigation measures, and I am really proud of the hard work my team has done to keep their fellow Virginians safe during these unprecedented times.”

The Plaintiff, in this case, William G. Dillon, Jr., who owns the Abbey Road restaurant in Virginia Beach, filed suit challenging the Governor’s executive orders that were passed to keep Virginians safe and healthy and prevent further spread of the deadly coronavirus. The Plaintiff sought a preliminary injunction that would allow him to have more patrons in his restaurant. Judge David W. Lannetti of the Norfolk Circuit Court denied the request for a preliminary injunction, as well as the plaintiff’s petition for writ of mandamus after finding that “Plaintiffs failed to prove that they will suffer irreparable injury without the requested temporary injunction, that the requested relief is in the public interest, and that the equities tip in their favor.” Additionally, Judge Lannetti acknowledges that the COVID-19 situation is ever-evolving, but he makes the point that “Courts…resolve legal – as opposed to social or political – questions; the other branches of government establish and enforce statutes and policies.”

This is the thirteenth decision Attorney General Herring and his team has won in defense of Virginia’s COVID mitigation measures, including two cases that explicitly challenged Virginia’s mask requirement, in addition to winning court cases to protect the vote during the COVID pandemic.

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Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – July 28, 2020; Hampton Roads area, CARES Act funds, going back to school

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

  • 4 out of 5 Virginia health regions are stable
  • Hampton Roads area need attention
  • continue to do the right things
  • wear masks
  • stay at home
  • social distancing
  • checking in on your neighbors
  • vaccines being fast-tracked
  • the nursing home situation turned around
  • testing up to 20,000 people per day
  • new executive order for Hampton Roads area
  • CARES Act funds will be distributed
  • working on quick-turnaround tests for COVID-19
  • “recipe for disaster” if students go back to school without numbers down
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Governor Northam urges Virginians to prepare for hurricane season amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Governor Ralph Northam is reminding all Virginians to prepare now as peak hurricane season approaches and the Commonwealth continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier today, the Governor and his cabinet joined state-local public safety agencies for a virtual exercise to test Virginia’s hurricane readiness and address the challenges of managing disaster response and recovery efforts during the ongoing health crisis.

“Hurricane season brings added challenges this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are committed to ensuring that Virginians know their risks, get prepared, and stay informed,” said Governor Northam. “Our administration remains actively focused on planning for simultaneous emergencies, and we will continue to adjust our plans as needed to protect public health and keep the Commonwealth safe. As our government agencies prepare for the possibility of a complex incident involving a major natural disaster amid virus outbreaks, it is also important that individuals and businesses make sure they are ready as well.”

One of the key statewide coordination efforts is the development of the Virginia Hurricane Evacuation Guide During the COVID-19 Pandemic, which highlights preparedness, response, and recovery actions in the event of tropical weather in coastal areas of the Commonwealth. This year’s guide includes pandemic considerations such as updating kits to include sanitation and personal protective supplies and following public health guidance. The Commonwealth is also preparing to adjust operations to ensure the delivery of critical services while adhering to social distancing guidelines and keeping people safe from storm impacts.

“As public safety professionals, the staff at our state agencies are accustomed to managing multiple issues at once, and are specifically trained in hurricane response,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran. “I have confidence in our preparedness efforts and ask that Virginians also take the time to plan for the hurricane season.”

The traditional Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, and forecasters are projecting an above-average season—there have been eight named storms so far this year, and the first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season made landfall in Texas on July 25.

Virginians know the devastating impacts of hurricanes and tropical storms and recognize these threats are not isolated to coastal areas. High winds, flooding, and tornadoes have also caused significant damages to inland communities. Hurricanes can be unpredictable in terms of timing and scope, and this year, it is particularly vital to prepare for hurricane season in conjunction with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This exercise was extremely beneficial, not only in strengthening our overall hurricane coordination efforts but in identifying limitations and risks due to COVID-19 and operating in a more dispersed, virtual environment,” said Curtis Brown, State Coordinator at the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. “Understanding how we can enhance our preparedness, especially to support our most at-risk populations, is critical to the success of any disaster response and recovery.”

Governor Northam is calling on all Virginians and those visiting the state to prepare now by knowing your risk, purchasing flood insurance, developing a family communication plan, and making an emergency kit. It’s important to know what to do to protect yourself, your loved ones, your business, and your community.

• Know your zone. Evacuation may become necessary depending on the track and severity of the storm. Review Virginia’s evacuation zones at KnowYourZoneVA.org. It is important to note that the zone colors have been updated for 2020. Users can enter their physical address in the search bar of the website to view and confirm their designated evacuation zone.

• Complete a family communication plan. Prepare for how you will assemble and communicate with your family and loved ones. Identify meeting locations and anticipate where you will go. Federal Emergency Management Agency guidance on family communications plans is available here.

• Check your insurance coverage. Remember, there may be a waiting period for a flood insurance policy to become effective, and be aware that not all hurricane-related losses, such as flooding, are covered under traditional policies. Now is the time to review your coverage and contact your insurance agent for any changes. If you are not insured against floods, talk to your insurance agent, or visit floodsmart.gov. If you are a renter, now is the time to ensure you have adequate coverage to protect your belongings.

• Make an emergency kit. Assemble an emergency kit that includes nonperishable food, water, medication, sanitary supplies, radios, extra batteries, and important documents. Learn more about building an emergency supply kit here.

• Stay informed. Identify where to go for trusted sources of information during emergencies. Check with your local emergency management office to sign up for alerts that go directly to your phone or email. Be sure to monitor local news for watches and warnings in your area and follow directions of local officials. Power outages are always a concern during weather events—make sure you have a battery-operated radio available so you can still receive life-saving alerts.

There are many resources available to assist with hurricane planning efforts. Learn more about preparing your business, your family, and your property against hurricane threats at vaemergency.gov/hurricanes and ready.gov/hurricanes. Additional information about preparing for hurricanes during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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Commission recommends removal of Virginia’s Robert E. Lee statue from U.S. Capitol

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Governor Ralph Northam today applauded a unanimous vote by the Commission for Historical Statues in the United States Capitol recommending the removal of the statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from National Statuary Hall. The Commission made its recommendation following a virtual public meeting hosted by the Department of Historic Resources (DHR). The Governor testified before the Commission in favor of removing the statue.

The eight-member state commission, authorized by the General Assembly, is charged with determining whether the Robert E. Lee statue should be replaced, and if so, recommend to the General Assembly a replacement to represent the Commonwealth of Virginia alongside George Washington in the United States Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection, where each state is entitled to two statues.

“The Robert E. Lee statue does not tell our full and true story, and it has never represented all Virginians,” said Governor Northam. “I commend the Commission’s righteous decision to remove this relic from the halls of Congress and replace it with a new statue that embodies the inclusive Commonwealth we aspire to be.”

Since 1909, America’s first president George Washington has stood as Virginia’s contribution to the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol, along with Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The Virginia General Assembly established the Commission for Historical Statues in the United States Capitol during its last regular session and tasked it with studying removal and replacement of the Robert E. Lee statue.

Governor Northam appointed two Commission members, Dr. Edward Ayers, a historian and professor at the University of Richmond, and Dr. Colita Fairfax, a professor at Norfolk State University and chair of the Virginia Board of Historic Resources. The Senate of Virginia appointed Senator Louise Lucas and the Speaker of the House of Delegates selected Delegate Jeion Ward. During the Commission’s first meeting on July 1, the four appointed members elected three citizen representatives, Dr. Fred Motley of Danville, Chief Anne Richardson of the Rappahannock Tribe, and a resident of Indian Neck, and Margaret “Margi” Vanderhye of McLean. DHR Director Julie Langan serves as an ex-officio member.

The Commission will now begin work to recommend to the General Assembly a prominent Virginia citizen of historic renown or renowned for distinguished civil or military to be commemorated in National Statuary Hall Collection. Governor Northam will transmit the Commission’s decision to the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress and request the immediate removal of the Robert E. Lee statue.

The Commission will also be required to select a sculptor for the new statue, with preference given to a sculptor from Virginia; estimate the costs associated with the replacement of the Robert E. Lee statue, including costs related to construction and placement of the new statue, for the removal and transfer of the Robert E. Lee statue, and for any unveiling ceremony of the new statue; and recommend to the General Assembly a suitable state, local, or private nonprofit history museum in the Commonwealth for placement of the Robert E. Lee statue.

The Commission is required to hold at least one public hearing prior to making any recommendation to the General Assembly on a new statue. The next public meeting of the Commission for Historical Statues in the United States Capitol will be announced here.

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