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Governor Northam announces new international partnerships for Virginia distilleries



BERLIN—On June 19th, during a trade and marketing mission to Europe, Governor Ralph Northam announced new distribution partnerships for two Virginia craft distilleries, Catoctin Creek Distilling Company and Reservoir Distillery. The Office of International Marketing at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) supported Virginia company participation at a major international trade event for the bar and spirits industry where the two Virginia producers met their new distribution partners.

“Virginia distilleries provide a growing market for our Commonwealth’s agricultural products, and we are proud to support companies like Catoctin Creek and Reservoir as they pursue export opportunities and forge important relationships around the world,” said Governor Northam. “Foreign trade and investment are key to strengthening and diversifying our economy, and these two international partnerships are a perfect example Virginia’s commitment to helping businesses of all sizes explore new sales channels and compete both at home and abroad.”

“VDACS international marketing resources both in Virginia and in representative offices around the world are designed to introduce Virginia beverage, food, agriculture, and forestry companies to profitable sales opportunities. We are so pleased to see successes like this resulting from those efforts,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “Catoctin Creek and Reservoir, and many of the more than 70 distilleries around the Commonwealth, source grains such as corn, rye, and wheat from local producers, making these new sales opportunities successes not only for the spirits industry but also for all of Virginia agriculture. Some of their barrels are also made with Virginia oak.”

Founded by Becky and Scott Harris in 2009, Catoctin Creek was the first legal distillery in Loudoun County since before Prohibition. Catoctin Creek’s flagship product, Roundstone Rye, is a rye whiskey replicating traditional production methods and has been awarded gold medals across the globe. Catoctin Creek was first introduced to Hanseathische Weinhandelsgesellschaft Bremen (Hawe) at Bar Convent Berlin, where it participated in the “Virginia Is for Spirits Lovers”-themed booth hosted by VDACS. The VDACS European representative office identified Hawe as a potential German partner for Virginia distilleries and made the initial introduction to Catoctin Creek.

“We’d visited Germany a few times looking for the right partner in the market,” said Scott Harris, co-founder of Catoctin Creek. “The Virginia booth at Bar Convent and the effort made by the VDACS trade representative to bring prospective buyers to see us there gave us the visibility we’ve needed. We’re so excited for this opportunity with such a reputable importer of premium spirits.”

Based in Richmond, Reservoir Distillery crafts its award-winning whiskeys with Virginia grains. Its flagship wheat, rye, and bourbon whiskeys are 100 percent single-grain and bottled at 100 proof. Reservoir Distillery also met its new distribution partner in Germany, Hanseatische Weinhandelsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG, at Bar Convent Berlin.

“We have taken advantage of every opportunity VDACS has offered to expose us to international buyers and markets and are thankful Virginia has such valuable resources to assist small companies like ours with our export efforts,” said Dave Cuttino, co-founder and general manager of Reservoir. “We are excited to continue growing our brand in Europe.”

In 2018, Virginia exported $1.5 million in spirits to foreign markets, an increase of more than 13 percent over 2017. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States reports that distilled spirits exports grew more than 14 percent from 2014 to 2018.

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Governor Northam announces Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Planning Framework



NORFOLK—Governor Ralph Northam today released the Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Planning Framework, which lays out the core principles of the Commonwealth’s approach to coastal protection and adaptation and will serve as a blueprint for implementing Virginia’s first project-driven Coastal Resilience Master Plan by the end of 2021. Governor Northam made the announcement against the backdrop of the LaValette Avenue Kayak Launch and Fishing Pier in Norfolk where coastal flooding and sea-level rise have led to severe tidal intrusion.

“The pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives, but not the fact that our planet is warming, the land is sinking, sea levels are rising, and extreme weather events are more frequent and more severe,” said Governor Northam. “The science is clear: climate change is threatening our way of life, and there is no time to waste. We must act quickly and decisively—and the Coastal Master Planning Framework will be our roadmap to resilience in coastal Virginia. This innovative, science-based approach uses cost-effective, nature-based, and equitable strategies to protect our people, our communities, our infrastructure, and our economy right now and for generations to come.”

The Virginia Coastal Master Planning Framework is the result of a nearly two-year process initiated by the Governor in Executive Order Twenty-Four involving state agencies, key stakeholders, and local and regional partners to develop mitigation strategies to reduce the near and long term impacts of natural hazards and extreme weather. This document is a roadmap that puts the full strength of the Commonwealth into creating a comprehensive Coastal Resilience Master Plan that will protect communities, commerce, and the coastal environment. The approach recognizes the scientific and fiscal realities—and challenges—that underserved communities in both urban and rural areas are facing, and emphasizes local and regional efforts to combat flooding and protect people and assets. Governor Northam will take executive action in the coming days to implement important components of the Framework.

Flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster in the Commonwealth and the United States. Along Virginia’s coast, it is exacerbated by pollution-driven global warming, which leads to sea-level rise and more extreme weather patterns. And the impacts of sea-level rise and flooding are magnified by population density: Virginia’s coastal region is home to more than 70 percent of the Commonwealth’s population. In recent years, these factors, combined with development in flood-prone areas, have increased flood risk in the Commonwealth’s coastal communities. In 2018 and 2019, Virginia experienced nine major flooding events with damaging totaling approximately $1.6 billion. Virginia has the highest rate of sea-level rise of any east-coast state, putting billions of dollars in private property and public infrastructure in danger.

The Virginia Coastal Master Planning Framework takes decisive steps to address these threats by:

• Aligning state government hazard mitigation efforts to maximize support for coastal resilience

• Dividing coastal Virginia into four planning regions for the purposes of the Master Plan

• Establishing a Technical Advisory Committee to further define regional approaches and to help evaluate and prioritize projects

• Emphasizing the importance of green infrastructure and strategic relocation to reduce flood risk and provide additional community benefits

• Elevating the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program to support the development and implementation of the Master Plan

• Initiating a comprehensive public outreach effort to receive input from all impacted communities, particularly those that are underserved

“Nature is often the best flood control money can buy,” said Secretary of Natural Resources and Chief Resilience Officer Matthew J. Strickler. “While we know that we must protect our most critical infrastructure where it currently exists, that approach is not fiscally realistic or sustainable everywhere. Using natural and nature-based solutions whenever possible will provide the most cost-effective resilience to climate change impacts, while also improving quality of life and protecting the environment.”

The Framework will also help inform the development of guidance for coastal flood protection grants and loans under the Community Flood Preparedness Fund, to which Governor Northam and the General Assembly have dedicated 45 percent of the revenue from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative carbon credit auctions that begin next spring. These auctions are estimated to generate approximately $500 million over the next decade to address coastal and riverine flooding statewide. This significant stream of dedicated revenue will help ensure progress in implementing the Framework and Master Plan.

“This Framework is the most significant, collaborative effort on resilience the Commonwealth has ever undertaken,” said Special Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection Rear Admiral (Retired) Ann C. Phillips. “This innovative approach to coastal adaptation and protection was created based on the input and experience of state, federal, regional, and community stakeholders and experts. I look forward to engaging with communities across the coastal region as we continue to develop Virginia’s first Coastal Resilience Master Plan.”

Under Governor Northam’s leadership, Virginia has made coastal resilience planning and climate adaptation a top priority. In addition to Executive Order Twenty-Four, which established a unified approach to increasing Virginia’s resilience to coastal flooding, sea-level rise, and natural hazards, Governor Northam signed Executive Order Forty-Five, which established the country’s strongest flood protections for state-owned properties with the Virginia Flood Risk Management Program.

An overview of the Virginia Coastal Master Planning Framework can be found here. The full document is available here.

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Governor Northam signs new laws to support COVID-19 response, reform policing



Governor Ralph Northam on October 21, 2020,  announced he has signed 16 new laws and proposed changes to five bills that will support the Commonwealth’s ongoing COVID-19 response and advance criminal justice reform.

“I am proud to sign new laws that strengthen our COVID-19 response efforts and make our criminal system more equitable,” said Governor Northam. “I am grateful to legislators for their hard work this session, and look forward to signing more critically important legislation in the coming days.”

Governor Northam signed the following laws to support COVID-19 response and recovery efforts:

House Bill 5041 (Delegate Head) and Senate Bill 5042 (Senator Kiggans) require the Board of Health to establish protocols related to safe nursing home, hospice, and nursing facility visits.

House Bill 5048 (Delegate Sickles) and Senate Bill 5090 (Senator Dunnavant) provide additional clarity to the Virginia Department of Health regarding publication of disease outbreak data.

House Bill 5093 (Delegate Watts) and Senate Bill 5117 (Senator Deeds) allow a $500 civil penalty for violations of a Governor’s Executive Order, instead of the Class 1 misdemeanor currently dictated by Virginia Code.

House Bill 5047 (Delegate Murphy) strengthens Virginia’s anti-price gouging laws during declared states of emergency.

Senate Bill 5039 (Senator Marsden) establishes a formal program for the purchase and distribution of personal protective equipment during a public health threat.

House Bill 5087 (Delegate Tran) extends the date by which the Virginia Employment Commission is required to establish and implement a short-time compensation program and removes the program’s sunset clause.

Senate Bill 5083 (Senator McClellan) requires Virginia school boards to publicly post their plans and strategies for mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

Senate Bill 5017 (Senator Boysko) grants the Commonwealth the ability to establish and enforce health standards at local correctional facilities used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or other federal agencies.

Governor Northam signed the following laws to reform criminal justice and policing:

House Bill 5098 (Delegate Askew) increases the penalty for falsely summoning or giving false reports to law enforcement officers due to an individual’s race, religious conviction, gender, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, color, or national origin.

House Bill 5072 (Delegate Lopez) and Senate Bill 5024 (Senator Lucas) allow the Attorney General to open investigations related to a suspected “pattern or practice” of misconduct among law enforcement officers.

House Bill 5062 (Delegate Mullin) and Senate Bill 5033 (Senator Surovell) restore the practice of requiring judges to dismiss charges when both parties (prosecution and defense) agree.

Governor Northam proposed changes to the following bills:

House Bill 5046 (Delegate D. Adams) and Senate Bill 5080 (Senator Barker) expand Medicaid coverage of telemedicine care. Governor Northam added an emergency clause to make this legislation effective immediately upon passage.

House Bill 5115 (Delegate Price) expands eviction protections for Virginians who experienced a loss of wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Northam added an emergency clause to make this legislation effective immediately upon passage.

House Bill 5058 (Delegate Hope) and Senate Bill 5029 (Senator Lucas) prohibit law enforcement from initiating traffic stops in certain instances. Governor Northam amended this legislation to ensure law enforcement can initiate a traffic stop when an individual is driving at night without the use of both headlights and/or without the use of both brake lights.

A full list of legislation signed by the Governor from the Special Session can be found here.

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Governor Northam releases Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger



RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam on October 20, 2020, released the inaugural Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger, which establishes a unified set of goals and strategies to prioritize food security during the current public health emergency and beyond. The Roadmap was produced by Governor Northam’s Children’s Cabinet.

In Virginia and across the country, food insecurity rates are increasing, with an estimated 445,000 additional Virginians experiencing food insecurity because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the onset of this public health crisis, approximately 850,000 Virginians were food insecure, including 250,000 children.

“This pandemic has created challenges for the entire food system and added new burdens on thousands of Virginia families,” said Governor Northam. “Since the beginning of our Administration, we have prioritized addressing nutrition and food insecurity, and that work has never been more relevant than it is today. The Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger looks beyond our current struggles and outlines a way forward to end hunger in the Commonwealth and ensure equitable access to healthy, affordable food for all Virginians.”

The Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger lays out opportunities to reduce food insecurity in the Commonwealth, and critical next steps to develop policies, programs, and partnerships to benefit Virginia’s children and communities.

“Keeping all Virginians healthy requires our commitment to keeping them nourished,” said First Lady Pamela Northam. “This is an important resource that supports food access for all Virginians including our littlest learners, students, families, and seniors. I am grateful to the members of the Children’s Cabinet working group who have worked diligently to create the Roadmap as a path forward.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought renewed attention to the broader social determinants of health including food security. The Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger includes goals and strategies to:

• Expand child nutrition programs

• Increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women Infant and Children (WIC) Program

• Increase nutrition support for seniors

• Grow access to local food for schools and families

• Strengthen connections between food access programs and the healthcare sector

• Encourage food and agriculture investments in food deserts and marginalized communities

• Amplify public awareness of hunger in Virginia and support information sharing across public and private sectors

• Support community organizing to combat food insecurity and hunger

“Over the past seven years, Virginia has become a national model for closing the hunger gap, but there is still much work to be done,” said Dorothy McAuliffe, Chair of the Virginia No Kid Hungry Campaign and former First Lady of Virginia. “It will require a commitment to collaboration at the state and local level to ensure we have equitable access to nutritious foods and equal opportunity to grow and thrive. The Roadmap to End Hunger builds on our past successes and serves as a foundation to a food secure future for the Commonwealth.”

To create the Roadmap, the Northam Administration, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Social Services and the Federation of Virginia Food Banks, held listening sessions to gather input from stakeholder groups, community leaders, and Virginians that work in and are impacted by the food system. The seven listening sessions were held in Abingdon, Roanoke, Danville, Hampton, Fairfax County, Norfolk, and Richmond.

“While we have made significant progress in recent years and over the last seven months responding to increased poverty and food insecurity, too many Virginians continue to struggle with hunger,” said Virginia Department of Social Services Commissioner S. Duke Storen. “This Roadmap outlines the key strategies that state government and every Commonwealth community can take to ensure that Virginians receive the nutrition they need to thrive. We must double down on our work to turn the Roadmap into meaningful action.”

“Collectively, Virginia’s seven regional food banks represent the largest charitable response to hunger in the Commonwealth, providing 120 million pounds of food to nearly one million individuals each year,” said Eddie Oliver, Executive Director of the Federation of Virginia Food Banks. “In a state as rich in resources as ours, there is simply no reason for food insecurity to exist. The Roadmap gives us the template for how we can better leverage public and partnerships and work together to create a food system that works for everyone.”

The Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger emphasizes the importance of federal, state, and local policies and programs being in authentic partnerships with grassroots organizations, which are driven by the lived experiences of food insecure families. The Roadmap highlights the Richmond Food Justice Alliance and Cultivate Charlottesville as two examples of advocacy groups organizing at the local level to improve food access for their communities.

Learn more about the Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger here.

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Governor Northam announces $65.8 million to increase child care access, help providers



Governor Ralph Northam and First Lady Pamela Northam today, October 21, 2020, announced $65.8 million in new funding to increase access to child care and support child care providers amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This new investment is supported by $58.3 million in Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars as well as a reallocation of $7.5 million in Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funding through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. First Lady Northam made the announcement during a virtual meeting of the Children’s Cabinet.

On June 21, 2018, Governor Ralph Northam issued Executive Order No. 11 reestablishing the Children’s Cabinet. Experiences during the early years of a child’s life have a tremendous impact on development and life outcomes. This Children’s Cabinet will develop solutions to address challenges that exist for children across the Commonwealth and will focus its efforts on several key priorities. Among these priorities are early childhood development and school readiness, nutrition and food security, systems of care and safety for school-aged youth. In addressing these priorities, the Children’s Cabinet will work to develop goals, identify strategies, and measure impact and outcomes. Courtesy photo.

“Our ongoing COVID-19 response and recovery depend upon having a child care system that is both accessible and operational,” said Governor Northam. “Early childhood educators have been on the frontline since COVID-19 pandemic started, going above and beyond to keep their doors open, ensure children are safe, and even fill in the gaps with remote learning as schools have reopened. This new funding will help them continue to support working families and enable more programs to safely provide in-person child care.”

This funding will continue the incentive grant program for child care providers announced in April through the end of 2020. This program provides flexible cash assistance to child care providers to help offset operating costs and expenses associated with meeting health and safety guidelines. The Virginia Department of Social Services, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Education, has distributed more than $46 million in direct assistance to child care programs to date.

“Virginia’s early educators are true superheroes, and thousands of our families rely on them every day,” said First Lady Northam. “After listening to providers across the Commonwealth, it was clear that continuing this incentive grant program had to be our top priority. I am thrilled we were able to get it done, and I look forward to continuing to support early childhood education during this difficult time.”

Nearly 2,672 child care programs in Virginia—nearly 45 percent—closed their doors at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but thanks to more than $70 million in grants and other relief, many either have reopened or are starting to. Providers have reported that this funding is critical and many indicated that without additional financial support, they were unsure how long they could continue to operate.

“Child care plays an essential role in providing high-quality, safe learning environments for Virginia’s children while ensuring their parents and caregivers are able to work,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, MD, MHCM. “Serving working families remains a top priority, and we will continue to do all we can to support them.”

Child care programs have also stepped up to serve children who are participating in virtual learning, ensuring that they have safe, supervised spaces with access to food, supplies, and the internet. At least half of open child care programs have reported serving school-age children, and this new funding will also help communities establish public-private partnerships to meet the needs of working families with school-age children.

“Access to child care, especially from birth to age 12, is key to our economic recovery, financial stability for families, and helping Virginia’s children succeed in school,” said Virginia Department of Social Services Commissioner S. Duke Storen. “This additional funding provides a critical financial lifeline to the many working parents who depend on child care programs.”

The distribution of these funds will be announced by the Virginia Department of Social Services in the coming weeks. A comprehensive guide to COVID-19 child care resources in Virginia is available here. Additional health and safety guidance for Child care centers that remain open can be found here.

Parents who are in need of child care services should visit Child Care Aware at or call 1-866-KIDS-TLC for an up-to-date list of child care options in their area.

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Students say protests motivating them to the polls



Voters are more divided now than they were in the 2016 election, according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center. Many young Virginians believe the passion could translate to the polls on Election Day.

Rickia Sykes, a senior at Norfolk State University in Norfolk, said that her political views have grown stronger since protests erupted globally in late May. The death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis Police Department officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly 8 minutes, inspired months of protests.

Sykes said that her political views line up with her faith. She considers herself pro-life, believes in advocating for the working class, and supports law enforcement.

“The protests have shown me we need to keep God first, but it has also shown me that good cops are important to help keep law and order,” Sykes said in a text message. “I do realize that there are bad cops, but in order to make a change, I believe we need to work together with the good cops.”

Sykes said that now she researches politicians more thoroughly before deciding which candidate gets her vote. She looks at voting records to see if they vote in a way that “will help us middle and lower-class families.”

Erik Haugen, a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond who considers himself a Libertarian, said his political views haven’t changed much since the protests started.

“I just see the stronger push for equality, and I think it’s a good step in our nation so long as it proceeds peacefully,” Haugen said.

Equality is at the center of issues that student voters are concerned about this election. From racial injustice to prison reform to healthcare concerns, many students say they want to enact positive change.

Students have varying opinions on whether the importance of voting has become more significant in recent years. Sykes said that she has always found voting significant, but she believes the importance of it has grown for others. Haugen said that while his political views haven’t changed, he believes voting has become more important in general and especially for the younger generations as tension in the U.S. grows, and protests become more prominent.

Sarah Dowless, a junior at William & Mary in Williamsburg, said that voting has always been important, but the protests have made voting more prominent, “like people encouraging folks to vote and making information about voting accessible, especially among young people.” Dowless said the recent protests have reinforced her progressive beliefs.

“If anything, the protests have only amplified my concern for racial injustice in America and my concern about police brutality,” she said. “It’s a fundamental issue about freedom and it calls into question the very principles on which this country was founded and continues to claim.”

The protests also influenced a host of legislation in the recent special legislative session of the General Assembly that ended last week. Virginia legislators passed numerous bills focused on police and criminal justice reform.

According to the United States Census Bureau, voter turnout among 18 to 29-year-olds jumped 15.7% between 2014 and 2018. This was the largest percentage point increase for any age group. Turnout is expected to be high this year as well, but there are no final numbers for age groups. Voter registration in Virginia set a record this year with almost 5.9 million voters registering. During the last presidential election a little more than 5.5 million people registered to vote.

Sykes is also concerned about the economy and health care.  She wants a political leader who will increase the odds that people have a stable source of income to afford medical treatment.

“As a graduating senior, I want and need a good-paying/stable job for when I graduate,” she said. “I need someone who will make sure we have a strong and reliable economy.”

Dowless wants U.S. prisons, which she describes as currently being “more punitive than rehabilitative,” to undergo major reform. Haugen would like police academy programs to be longer and implement de-escalation training.

“I first and foremost care about the safety of the American people,” Haugen said.

Early voting and no-excuse absentee voting are currently underway throughout the state. The deadline to request to vote absentee by mail is Oct. 23. Early voting ends the Saturday before Election Day, or Oct. 31.

By Hunter Britt
Capital News Service

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.

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More Virginia colleges scrap traditional spring break



A growing number of Virginia colleges are announcing that spring break will be canceled or modified in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Virginia Tech, located in Blacksburg, announced plans Monday. The biggest change is that the university will not have a week-long spring break. It will instead have five one-day breaks spaced throughout the semester.

“While we want to discourage travel that could aid in the spread of COVID-19, we don’t want to eliminate much-needed downtime that students seek for their overall well-being,” Frank Shushok, vice president for student affairs at Tech, said in a news release.

Tech will hold a mix of in-person and hybrid classes. The latter will be fully online or a mix of online and in-person courses. The university did not modify the start and end of the spring semester. The university will begin classes on Jan. 19 and end on May 5. Exams will be held May 7-12.

Other Virginia universities have started to announce plans for the spring semester. George Mason University in Fairfax announced Monday plans to start classes on Jan. 25, one week later than originally planned. GMU will also be eliminating spring break. The university will hold a mix of in-person, online, and hybrid classes, and will end classes as originally scheduled on April 30, followed by final exams.

Radford University in Radford will start classes on Jan. 19 as originally planned and hold spring break at the end of the semester, concluding classes a week early. Classes will be a mix of in-person and hybrid format and end on April 23. Exams will be held the following week.

Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond announced last week that it will start the semester a week later than originally planned. VCU will hold two one-day breaks; one in February and one in March. The university will offer in-person and online classes or a mixture of both formats.

“This measure is consistent with many other universities in Virginia and across the country,” VCU President Michael Rao said in an email announcing the move.

Christopher Newport University in Newport News announced a tentative spring 2021 academic calendar on Oct. 7, which includes a shortened, two-day spring break in March. Classes at CNU will begin on Jan. 11 and final exams will end on April 29.

Many Virginia colleges have not announced their spring semester plans. The University of Virginia, located in Charlottesville, will announce plans later this month, UVA spokesman McGregor McCance said last week.

By Anya Sczerzenie
Capital News Service

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.

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