RICHMOND—On Thursday, March 12, Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in the Commonwealth of Virginia in response to the continued spread of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.
While Virginia has been thoroughly preparing for weeks and has adequate funding to address the situation, this declaration will allow the Commonwealth increased flexibility to ease regulatory requirements and procurement rules, continue federal and multi-state coordination, and ensure continued access to critical services for the most vulnerable Virginians. In addition, it has become increasingly clear that states must take a primary leadership role in the national response to COVID-19. The full text of the Governor’s emergency declaration is available here.
“Our top priority is to make sure Virginians stay safe and healthy, and that our response to this situation leaves no one behind,” said Governor Northam. “From our health department to our schools, to our hospitals, to our transit systems, Virginia’s agencies and institutions have been thoroughly planning for every scenario. This emergency declaration will ensure we can continue to prepare for and appropriately respond to Virginians’ needs during this time.”
Governor Northam also announced additional steps to ensure the health and safety of all Virginians, including:
Ban on State Employee Travel and Implementation of Telework Policies
Virginia has over 100,000 state employees stationed throughout the Commonwealth. Governor Northam has halted all official travel outside of Virginia by state employees, with increased flexibility for inter-state commuters and essential personnel. Specific guidance will be released to agency heads and state employees, and Virginia will revisit these guidelines after 30 days.
Governor Northam has also directed his Secretary of Administration to implement a phased transition to teleworking for state employees. The Department of Human Resources Management will work with the Virginia Department of Health’s Equity Workgroup to prioritize support for impacted state employees that may be unable to perform their duties from home, including janitorial, food, and grounds staff.
The Department of Human Resources Management has worked to ensure all agencies have updated emergency operations and leave policies. State employees, including part-time employees, can access paid Public Health Emergency Leave in the event of exposure to COVID-19 or high-risk travel.
Public Gatherings and Large Events
In accordance with advice from state public health experts, the Commonwealth of Virginia will cancel all specially-scheduled state conferences and large events for a minimum of 30 days.
Governor Northam is directing state agencies, through the Department of Human Resource Management, to limit in-person meetings and non-essential, work-related gatherings.
Governor Northam is also urging localities and non-profits to limit large public events, effective immediately. Localities should make these decisions in coordination with their local health departments and the Virginia Department of Health. Highly populated localities and those with close proximity to positive cases are strongly encouraged to announce updated event guidance by Friday, March 13, at 5:00 PM, in advance of the weekend.
Long-Term Economic Planning
Governor Northam is also assessing the potential long-term economic impacts of COVID-19. While containing the spread of the public health threat remains a top priority, Governor Northam is working with state and local partners to ensure Virginia is prepared for any continued economic disruption.
Virginia’s Secretary of Commerce and Trade will coordinate regularly with representatives from the Virginia Employment Commission, the Virginia Economic Development Council, the Department of Housing and Community Development, the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, the Department of Labor and Industry, the Virginia Tax Commission, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and other relevant stakeholders.
Throughout his administration, Governor Northam has worked closely with state legislators to protect Virginia’s strong economy and prepare for unexpected economic shocks. The General Assembly will vote today on a budget that boosts Virginia’s reserve funds more than at any other time in the Commonwealth’s history, an essential mechanism to ensure continued state services regardless of economic uncertainty.
Ongoing State Response Efforts
The Commonwealth of Virginia is continuing to execute a multi-agency response plan across all levels of government. Efforts include the following:
• The Department of Education has advised all school districts to update their pandemic guidelines, in consultation with their local health departments.
• The Northam administration continues to be in regular communication with superintendents, university and community college presidents, to provide guidance on the unique situations they are facing on the ground.
• The Virginia Department of Health has expanded its testing criteria to ensure that anyone who has symptoms and is in a nursing home is a top priority and gets immediate testing.
• Nursing homes and senior care facilities have updated their policies to provide additional visitor screening and increased monitoring of patients.
• Virginia’s social services agencies are preparing options to ensure the most vulnerable populations have continued access to critical services, including the potential for in-home care and food supports.
• In the event of extended school closures, the Virginia Department of Social Services is working with local partners, such as food pantries, to ensure no one goes hungry.
Addressing Barriers to Care
• Virginia is working with insurers to waive co-pays and diagnostic testing related to COVID-19.
• Governor Northam continues to encourage private businesses to explore telework and paid time off options, including those with hourly workers.
• Across the Commonwealth’s transportation network, which includes airports, Metro, buses, and rail, the Virginia Department of Transportation is adjusting cleaning schedules according to the CDC protocol.
• Virginia is training all transportation employees to spot indications of COVID-19, help reduce the potential spread of disease, and provide accurate information on symptoms, prevention, and diagnostic testing.
The 2023 Front Royal Chocolate Crawl starts Monday, February 6th
Calling all chocolate lovers. This is an event you don’t want to miss. The 2023 Front Royal Chocolate Crawl starts Monday, February 6th, and runs all week to Valentine’s Day on the 14th.
For every 2023 Chocolate Crawl Commemorative Ornament you buy, you will be automatically entered into our drawing for an amazing Valentine’s Day Gift Basket. Pickup the ornament (which smells like chocolate) at the following locations:
- White Picket Fence
- I Want Candy
- C&C Frozen Treats
The Ornament is $5, and the profits go to charity.
So, what is a Chocolate Crawl? Watch the video and find out and join the Facebook Event Page too.
Deputies rescue suspected impaired driver from pond after crash
At approximately 11am today, the Frederick County Emergency Communications Center received a 9-1-1 call stating that a SUV had driven off the roadway and into a pond in the area of Papermill Rd. and Harrsion Ln. The caller stated the driver was still in the vehicle and was not moving.
Deputies arriving first on the scene observed the vehicle, partially submerged in the water up to it’s hood, and could see the driver slumped over the wheel. Deputy Jason Hawse and Deputy Nick Dempsey removed their outer vests and gun belts and entered the frigid water to assist the unconscious subject. With outside temps of 27 degrees, and windchill making it feel more like 13 degrees, Hawse and Dempsey worked quickly, in the chest-high water, breaking the windows on the vehicle and pulling the subject out. Once getting the male driver to land, one dose of Narcan was administered and the subject regained consciousness a few moments later.
The driver, identified as Michael Surgent, 35, of Mechanicsville, Va. was immediately attended to by deputies awaiting EMTs to medically evaluate him for exposure. Based on witness statements, and evidence recovered later from the vehicle, it is believed that Surgent was “huffing” chemicals from aerosol cans resulting in his losing consciousness, and proper control of his vehicle. Surgent was taken to Winchester Medical Center and held for further medical evaluations. He has been charged with huffing chemicals, reckless driving and driving under the influence.
All deputies were checked on scene and cleared for duty, once out of their wet uniforms and warmed back up. Sheriff Lenny Millholland is both pleased with, and proud of, the swift and selfless actions taken by his personnel, saying “This could have been much worse and we are thankful that no one was seriously injured in this incident”.
Show our community some love: Warren Coalition’s LOVE sign hits the road
From February 6th through March 31st, Warren Coalition’s LOVE sign will travel about Warren County to raise awareness and create community connections.
Businesses and organizations are invited to host the LOVE sign, free of charge, and collect notes of appreciation, encouragement, and affirmation for a group of their choosing. For example, they could collect notes for teachers, sanitation workers, housekeepers, mechanics, or nurses. Or they could collect notes for a specific place, such as a hospital, a nonprofit organization, or a school. It must be a group within Warren County, and it should be a group that is not part of the business/organization—for example, a school should not collect notes for its own teachers/employees.
The sign can be reserved for a single event, or a period of time up to one week. Afterwards, the business/organization can deliver the notes to their selected group, or Warren Coalition will deliver them on their behalf.
This campaign is part of the larger “We See You You, Warren County” movement, a grassroots resilience movement designed to develop a more connected community where everyone feels like they belong.
Anyone interested in hosting the sign should contact Celeste Brooks, Community Outreach Coordinator, at email@example.com or 540-660-3367.
More about the We See You, Warren County Campaign
We See You, Warren County is about seeing and acknowledging each individual within Warren County, whether they live, work, or play here. It is a grassroots campaign designed to foster community connection and improve community resilience, which are key foundational components in preventing drug and alcohol misuse. We See You, Warren County participants are encouraged to share their experiences on social media using the hashtag #WeCUWC. Organizations and individuals that register receive a window cling to show they are participating. The program now has more than 200 registered partners, and over 1,000 Facebook members. Sign-ups are ongoing. Go to weseeyou.warrencoalition.org to learn more, or to officially sign up yourself, your family, or your business or organization. You can also join the Facebook group at facebook.com/groups/wecuwc.
In addition, the Warren Coalition features individuals of the Warren County community on the “We See You” website, and on the Warren Coalition social media accounts. People do not have to be registered members to be featured. Anyone who lives, works, or plays in Warren County can submit a profile on the We See You website.
About Warren Coalition
Warren Coalition is a nonprofit agency established in 1994 to help fill the gaps in health care and substance misuse awareness to the community. The Coalition began under the guidance of Warren Memorial Hospital as an outreach project, but it has since grown and was incorporated in 2001. The office is located in the Warren County Community Center. Their mission is to make Warren County a safe, healthy, and drug-free community through many programs and in collaboration with 15+ member agencies.
Ressie Jefferies Elementary School on a mission to teach kids how to ride a bike
The Royal Examiner went on a field trip to Ressie Jefferies Elementary School this week to see how they teach kindergarten kids to ride a bike. It was quite a sight to see. So “precious” was a comment we heard.
Physical Education teacher Nick Simmons explained the process and how the program began at Ressie.
So, what is this program all about?
This is a national movement led by the Strider Education Foundation to place Kindergarten PE Learn-To-Ride Programs into public schools for free, using donations from individuals, businesses, and organizations.
Learning to ride a bike builds the confidence that changes everything, including balance and muscle strength. It also improves children’s health, including cardiovascular, motor skills, coordination, weight management, skeletal development, and the immune system.
Robotic field painter, senior center patio among School Board approvals
The Warren County School Board, during its Wednesday, February 1 meeting, unanimously approved several action items, including the purchase of a robotic athletic field painter, a senior center patio, an IT construction proposal, and another school bus purchase.
School Board Chair Kristen Pence, Vice Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and board members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins voted 5-0 to approve the collaborative purchase of a robotic field painter. The total cost of $45,080 — which will be paid over a six-year period at $7,513 each year — will be divided equally between the Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) Facilities Department, Skyline High School, and Warren County High School. Each will pay $2,504 yearly to Tiny Mobile Robots USA, LLC.
An additional appropriation is not required as budgets for these departments can cover the annual expense, according to WCPS staff, who told the School Board that the purchase is considered the best option for efficiently using school district manpower and will produce an annual cost saving on paint.
The School Board also voted unanimously to approve a patio for the new Warren County Senior Center being built at its 15th Street school property, which is officially known as the Warren County Health and Human Services Complex. WCPS sublets roughly 59,010 square feet at the former 15th Street Middle School facility to the Warren County Department of Social Services, the County’s Health Department, and the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging, among others.
Taryn Logan, Deputy County Administrator for Warren County, presented details on the proposed patio, noting that the lease agreement requires the School Board to approve any exterior renovations in advance in writing.
“We’re currently making improvements to the cafeteria space to move the senior center from its current location, which is by Chimney Fields, to this location,” Logan said.
There is a grassy area right outside the cafeteria doors where the patio, a stone sign that will say Warren County Senior Center, and a metal fence to enclose the area will be located, said Logan. “We think it’ll be a nice little area for the seniors to enjoy outside,” she said.
In another action, the School Board unanimously passed a request for another school bus purchase from Sonny Merryman Bus Co. costing $127,509. The bus will be manufactured and delivered along with the seven current buses on order. All vehicles are scheduled to be ready before the 2023-2024 school year, according to WCPS Assistant Superintendent of Administration George “Buck” Smith.
Smith said the board also authorized the superintendent to make the bus purchase request to the Warren County Board of Supervisors, which would have to modify the amount on the existing purchase order.
Additionally, a $160,929 network wiring project at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School was approved for Syntax Communications.
“As part of the LFK construction project, the network cabling needs to be updated to meet the current technology needs of the modern school system,” WCPS Technology Director Tim Grant told board members, adding that the cost will be paid out of the LFK construction funds and was bid through the Warren County government IT contract.
A.S. Rhodes Elementary School received an award for having a 95.38 percent attendance rate during the month of January, Ballenger said. Incentives to ramp up attendance at the school included extra gym time, cookie decorating, and class option choices such as dance parties and having lunch with a teacher in the classroom.
Warren County Middle School won for the second time in a row with a 92.21 percent attendance rate for January. Incentives included a snowball fight, watching a movie with their friends, and earning a trophy.
The most improved for January was Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School, which saw attendance rise 2.84 percent for an overall 93.1 percent attendance rate in January, according to Ballenger. Fun incentives included popsicles with the principal for the class having the best attendance on any given day.
Front Royal Presbyterian Church holds open conversation regarding Thermal Shelter
On January 30, 2023, the Front Royal Presbyterian Church held a ‘question and answer’ session at the church regarding the Thermal Shelter. The 2022/2023 season of the Thermal Shelter is being held at the Front Royal Presbyterian Church. Several neighbors are concerned about the Thermal Shelter and its operation. Pastor Carrie Evans moderated the conversation, along with Michelle Smelter and several shelter board members, to answer questions.
The shelters will operate from December 17, 2022, to March 31, 2023, from 6:00 pm to 7:00 am daily.
Watch this exclusive Royal Examiner video.