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Governor Youngkin declares State of Emergency in advance of nor’easter expected to arrive Friday

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RICHMOND, VIRGINIA — Governor Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency on January 27, 2022, in anticipation of a winter storm arriving tomorrow that will affect several regions of the Commonwealth. At this time, forecasts indicate that while this will be a statewide event, areas along the coastline will experience the largest impacts. Heavy wet snow along with high winds are predicted which poses a threat for downed trees, electrical outages, and major impacts to travel. In addition, there is also the threat of tidal flooding.

“The key message for all Virginians is to stay aware of the weather conditions and to stay off the roads if possible,” said Governor Youngkin. “We have already started planning and mobilizing resources needed to protect the Commonwealth. We are very concerned with the forecasted impacts to our Eastern Shore region and have started pre-positioning resources to ensure a timely response to that area. The most important thing everyone can do to minimize the risks is to prepare yourself and your family.”

As a reminder, below is a list of preparedness actions that you can take to lessen the impacts of severe winter weather:

• During a winter storm, stay off the roads as much as possible and only drive when absolutely necessary. Always give snowplows and responders the right of way.
• Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning device inside your home, garage, basement, crawlspace, or any other partially enclosed area.
• Snow shoveling is a known trigger for heart attacks. Always avoid overexertion when shoveling.
• When severe weather occurs, plan to check on elderly or disabled neighbors and relatives.
• If you must travel, know road conditions before you leave home. Visit 511Virginia.org or call 511 for road condition updates.
• Protect yourself from Frostbite. Hands, feet, and face are the most commonly affected areas so wear a hat, mittens (which are warmer than gloves) and cover your mouth with a scarf to reduce heat loss.
• Keep dry. Change out of wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat.
• Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing.
• Prepare your home
• Make sure your home is properly insulated
• Check the weather stripping around your windows and doors
• Learn how to shut off water valves in case a pipe bursts
• Have additional heat sources on hand in case of power outages
• Keep a fire extinguisher accessible
• Replace the batteries in your Carbon Monoxide detector annually
• Prepare your car
• Batteries lose power as temperatures drop, be sure to have yours tested
• Check your car’s antifreeze level
• Have your radiator system serviced
• Replace your car’s windshield wiper fluid with a wintertime mix
• Proactively replace your car’s worn tires and wiper blades
• To help with visibility, clean off your car entirely – including your trunk, roof, windows, and headlights
• Please heed warnings to avoid travel. If you absolutely have to be on the roadway, prepare your vehicle and have a kit for you and your passengers. This could include items such as:
• Blankets
• Drinking water and snacks for everyone in the car, including pets
• Boots
• Basic first-aid kit
• Warm coat and insulating layers (sweatpants, gloves, hat, socks,)
• Rags, paper towels, or pre-moistened wipes
• Basic set of tools
• Car emergency warning devices such as road flares or reflectors
• Ice scraper/snow brush
• Jumper cables/jump pack
• Fire extinguisher
• Cash
• Items for children such as diapers, baby wipes, toys, etc.
• Flashlight, with extra batteries
• Hand warmers
• Paper map
• Portable smartphone power bank
• Extra medication
• Garbage bags
• Traction aid such as sand, salt, or non-clumping cat litter
• Tarp, raincoat, and gloves
• Shovel


A state of emergency allows the Commonwealth to mobilize resources and to deploy people and equipment to assist in response and recovery efforts. This action does not apply to individuals or private businesses. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Transportation, and other pertinent agencies are already mobilizing and preparing for the impact of these storms.

To learn more about how to prepare yourself, your family, and your business for winter weather, visit www.vaemergency.gov/winter-weather. For real-time traffic conditions anywhere in the state, dial 5-1-1 or visit 511Virginia.org.

To read the full text of the order, visit https://www.governor.virginia.gov/executive-actions/

 

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From Jesus to Yeezy — who Virginia voters put their faith in

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How exactly would Wile E. Coyote or SpongeBob SquarePants represent their 7th District constituents in Congress if they had garnered enough write-in votes to best the official candidates? And who would run it better —Jesus Christ or Yeezy?

Those were just a few of the write-in choices made by voters in the recent midterm elections.

The Virginia Department of Elections received almost 6,000 write-in votes for congressional seats and write-in votes for local seats. Election results will be certified on Dec. 5. The two districts which received the most congressional write-in votes were the 11th and 7th districts, with 852 and 647 write-in votes, respectively. The 1st District had the least write-in votes, with just under 300.

Capital News Service filed 12 government records requests to review the write-in responses in the 11th and 7th districts. Half of the localities provided the information free of charge. To fulfill the request, Greene County and Fredericksburg City required payments of $50 and $100, respectively. Capital News Service declined to pay the fees. The votes were available for viewing in person, according to representatives from Fairfax City, Fairfax, and Stafford counties. Prince William County denied the request and cited the state code.


“It’s a bit of a protest vote,” said Amanda Wintersieck, about why people chose not to vote for candidates officially on the ballot. Wintersieck is an associate professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University, whose research focuses on political behavior and communication.

“In most election years, the top two individuals who get write-in votes are Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus,” she said.

Minnie and Mickey Mouse were both nominated this year. However, write-in contenders skewed this election more to the dark side, including Darth Vader, Hellraiser, and Cobra Commander — G.I. Joe’s nemesis. Some Madison County voters threw their support to deceased presidential assassins John Wilkes Booth, who killed Abraham Lincoln, and Lee Harvey Oswald, who killed John F. Kennedy. Former presidents George Washington and John Adams were also voter selections.

Most voters do not write in candidates to be strategic, Wintersieck said, but rather as a way of noting: “I don’t want either of these candidates.”

She said that other people who write in names genuinely believe their selected candidate should win. Some states have the option to select “none of these candidates” to stop people from putting in fictional characters and people not running for office, Wintersieck said.

Former 7th District challenger and current state Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper County, was endorsed in Spotsylvania and Culpeper counties. Eric Cantor, who formerly served seven terms in the 7th District, and Dave Brat, who bested Cantor in a primary and served for one term, each received at least one vote.

Some voters wrote in the names of candidates who represented the locality before redistricting. U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman received write-in votes from counties he used to represent before the 1st District was redrawn. This could be due to voter confusion, “brand familiarity” from having the same representative for years, or to make a statement against redistricting and the new candidates, Wintersieck said.

Write-in votes did not impact any congressional races. Write-in candidates won local elections where there were not enough candidates to fill seats. Kevin Kelley, a write-in candidate, won a seat on the Stanardsville Town Council, according to Jennifer Lewis-Fowler, director of elections for Greene County. This was the only race that required write-in votes to be tabulated in Greene County.

Isaac Kelley, age 19, became the youngest candidate to win in the town of Timberville in Rockingham County. He won an uncontested seat on the Town Council after deciding at noon on Election Day to launch his campaign, according to the Daily News-Record. According to DNR, he used a whiteboard to promote his name as a candidate and won by an 18-vote margin.

The U.S. is governed by what Wintersieck said is a gerontocracy — a political system operated by older people.

“It’s really encouraging to see young people running, and it’s really encouraging to see young people winning,” Wintersieck said. She encouraged candidates to mentor and train younger people to serve.

Perhaps some voters took “Rock the Vote” too literally. Rockers Bob Dylan, Trent Reznor, Keith Richards, and Frank Zappa were all write-in options for the 7th District.

Some voters merely identified what they wanted in a candidate and suggested a representative “that supports Black people” and “with better ideas.”

Other voters put their faith in the power of Batman, Samuel L. Jackson, Nicholas Cage, and Hulk Hogan to clean up Congress.

 

By Darlene Johnson
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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Governor Glenn Youngkin announces additional investment for economic development sites

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On December 2, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that he is committed to bringing more companies into Virginia by proposing an additional investment for business-ready sites in Virginia.

“In June, I signed a budget which included $150 million for preparing business-ready sites, and we have to do so much more,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “I will propose an additional $350 million investment for a total of $500 million to secure Virginia’s position as having the best sites in the nation. I want ‘Made in America’ to mean ‘Made in Virginia.’ ”

Watch Governor Youngkin’s speech at the 13th Virginia Economic Summit and Forum on International Trade.

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Inadequate education for Fairfax disabled students and more Va. headlines

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The State Capitol. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

 

• Gov. Glenn Youngkin bucked tradition by becoming the first governor in almost three decades not to take an overseas trade trip during his first year in the job, a period when he took 19 out-of-state trips for political purposes. A Youngkin spokesman defended the lack of trade missions, saying Youngkin’s extensive business connections made travel unnecessary.—Washington Post

• Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia’s largest school system, failed to provide adequate educational services for students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, a federal investigation concluded.—WTOP

• “In Virginia, the land still owned by the Coles family could yield billions from uranium. Does any of that wealth belong to the descendants of the enslaved?”—Washington Post


• A Prince William County judge threw out a pair of lawsuits Republican activists filed seeking to undo the certification of the county’s midterm election results. “At some point we need to trust that the people we put in place to do these things are doing them,” the judge said.—Prince William Times

• Wild Thing, the oldest of Chincoteague’s ponies, has died at 25. “He has crossed the rainbow bridge and joined the big herd in the sky,” the local volunteer fire department wrote in a tribute to the “Popes Island Stud.”—Virginian-Pilot

 

by Staff Report, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Attorney General Miyares announces million dollar settlement with CarMax over disclosure of safety recalls

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On December 1, 2022, Attorney General Jason Miyares announced a bipartisan national settlement with CarMax Auto Superstores Inc. (CarMax) that will require the retailer to disclose unrepaired recalls related to the safety of its used vehicles to consumers before vehicles are purchased. Virginia is expected to receive $25,699.36 as part of the settlement, which the Office of the Attorney General will use for future consumer protection enforcement purposes.

Attorney General Miyares was joined by a coalition of 35 state attorneys general. The settlement stems from an investigation opened due to concerns that consumers were not aware of unrepaired and potentially serious safety recalls in purchased used vehicles.

“Purchasing a motor vehicle is a big investment. Virginians deserve to have all the information that could impact their decision to buy a car. Consumers deserve to know at the time of purchase whether the vehicle they are purchasing is subject to an open recall, especially if that recall relates to a safety issue,” said Attorney General Miyares. ” This settlement will help set a standard for the used-car industry that requires sellers to provide such notice as part of the sales transaction and ensure Virginians are properly informed before buying a car.”

This settlement requires CarMax to continue to utilize disclosure measures to ensure consumers have information on unrepaired vehicle recalls. CarMax must include hyperlinks for vehicles advertised online and QR codes for vehicles on sales lots, allowing consumers to link directly to information on open recalls as they shop. CarMax must also present consumers with copies of any open recalls before presenting any other sales paperwork and pay participating states $1 million.


CarMax utilizes the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) vehicle identification number tool to access recall information. The tool is available to the general public on the NHTSA website.

Read a copy of the settlement here.

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Virginia hemp panel suggests tougher rules on unregulated THC products

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An image of a Delta-8 THC product included in a presentation to a state hemp task force by the Blue Ridge Poison Center.

 

A state task force studying the rise of unregulated cannabis products in Virginia is recommending stricter rules for businesses selling hemp-based delta-8 THC products that technically aren’t marijuana but produce a similar high when eaten or smoked.

Virginia’s piecemeal approach to legalizing marijuana has led to major enforcement gaps, with convenience stores and smoke shops offering a variety of difficult-to-classify products in the continued absence of state-sanctioned retail marijuana sales for recreational use.

This year, the General Assembly created a task force to get a better handle on hemp-derived edibles and inhaled products that, unlike CBD, can get users high, but usually with a milder effect. A lengthy report the task force delivered last month points to possible legislation state lawmakers will take up when they return to Richmond next month.


The task force concluded that businesses that sell delta-8 products should have to apply for a permit and face tougher civil penalties for breaking the rules.

“Edible and inhaled hemp products that are consumed much like marijuana products pose a risk to Virginians, most notably to children, when offered for sale without restriction,” the report says. “A retail permit requirement will likely reduce the occurrence of cannabis-related ‘pop-up shops.’”

The report doesn’t lay out how steep the fines should be for businesses that violate the rules but says existing penalties “are not substantial enough to compel compliance.”

The task force is also recommending an overhaul of how the state regulates all types of cannabis, suggesting a more coordinated strategy instead of having the responsibility split among numerous agencies touching on agriculture, pharmacy, forensic science, and law enforcement. The 16-person task force was made up of state officials from all those areas and the state’s newly formed Cannabis Control Authority.

For additional clarity, the report suggests measuring a product’s total THC concentration to determine its legality. Many delta-8 products exist in a legal gray area because many of the state’s cannabis laws are based on measurements of delta-9 THC, the traditional intoxicating element more abundant in marijuana than in hemp. State regulators’ official position is that delta-8 THC in edible or drinkable form is an illegal food adulterant, but it’s unclear how strongly the state is enforcing that interpretation. State regulators’ official position is that delta-8 THC in edible or drinkable form is an illegal food adulterant, but it’s unclear how strongly the state is enforcing that interpretation.

The report says that total THC would help the state draw a clearer distinction between how it treats intoxicating versus non-intoxicating products, no matter which plant they come from or how they’re made.

“The debate of whether cannabis should be legalized in the Commonwealth is a question left up to the General Assembly, and one that this task force takes no position on,” Chief Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Parker Slaybaugh, who chaired the task force, wrote in an introduction to the report.

In a more informal suggestion, task force participants suggested rethinking whether stricter rules on packaging, such as a requirement for child-proof containers, should be implemented to prevent minors from accidentally ingesting high doses of THC. Attorney General Jason Miyares has already issued a warning the state could crack down on “copycat” THC products in packaging made to mimic popular candy and snack brands.

The challenge before the state is figuring out a way to exert tighter control over hemp-derived compounds that can be chemically altered to have intoxicating effects without hurting a hemp industry that has already given a green light to grow the crop for less controversial uses.

According to public comments incorporated into the report, some of the recommendations are likely to face pushback from the hemp and cannabis industries. From the other side, some advocacy groups have pushed the state to go further and consider banning delta-8 products altogether.

The Virginia Catholic Conference pointed to a recent poisoning case in Spotsylvania County, where a mother is facing felony murder and child neglect charges after her 4-year-old son died after eating delta-8 gummies. The mother, Dorothy Clements, told WUSA9 she thought she had bought CBD gummies and didn’t know they contained THC. She and her attorney have said other medical conditions, such as heart problems and obesity, may have played a role in the child’s death.

The Catholic Conference also pointed to an incident in Fairfax County where multiple middle school students needed medical attention after eating delta-8 gummies.

“These repeated instances of harm to children make it abundantly clear that the Virginia General Assembly should consider banning the sale of delta 8 as has been done by at least 12 states,” wrote Tom Intorcio, associate director of the Catholic Conference.

The U.S. Hemp Roundtable, a national advocacy group for the industry, disagreed, saying intoxicating hemp products should be legal but put under “a stricter regulatory framework akin to adult-use cannabis.”

The Cannabis Business Association of Virginia, or CannaBizVA, said it opposes changing how the state measures THC content because it would move Virginia away from the common legal standard of using delta-9 THC levels to distinguish between hemp and marijuana.

 

by Graham Moomaw, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Virginia reports first monkeypox death

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Virginia reported its first death from monkeypox Thursday, one of only 15 that have occurred nationwide since the most recent outbreak began in May.

The Virginia Department of Health said the deceased was an adult resident of the Eastern Health Region, an area encompassing Hampton Roads, the Eastern Shore, and the upper peninsulas. No other information is being released.

The death comes as monkeypox, now known as mpox following a World Health Organization recommendation, continues to decline nationwide.

Why is the U.S. shifting away from ‘monkeypox’ to ‘mpox’?

On November 28, the World Health Organization, responsible for assigning names to new and some existing diseases, recommended that “monkeypox” be phased out in favor of “mpox” over the next year.


“When the outbreak of monkeypox expanded earlier this year, racist and stigmatizing language online, in other settings, and in some communities was observed and reported,” the WHO wrote in an announcement of the change. “In several meetings, public and private, a number of individuals and countries raised concerns and asked WHO to propose a way forward to change the name.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it is in the process of updating its web pages to reflect the new terminology.

A virus that can cause fever, chills, and, most prominently, a painful or itchy rash, mpox is spread through close contact. Cases in the current global outbreak have disproportionately occurred among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men.

In Virginia, 558 cases have been confirmed by VDH since the state announced its first presumed case on May 26. Cases peaked this August, with VDH data showing 63 confirmations in the week ending Aug. 13 and 55 in the week ending Aug. 27.

“The overall epidemiological curve … definitely has trended downward pretty steadily since the late summer,” said Dr. Laurie Forlano, deputy state epidemiologist and deputy director of Virginia’s Office of Epidemiology. “In recent weeks, the case counts have been quite low. And that’s true nationwide.”

Over 94% of Virginia mpox cases have been among men. Over three-quarters have affected people between the ages of 20 and 39. Black people have been the most impacted racial/ethnic group, representing 44% of Virginia cases, followed by white people at 25%.

“Relatively speaking, there have been a small number of deaths compared to the number of cases,” said Forlano.

Vaccination

The primary vaccine being used to inoculate people against mpox is the two-dose Jynneos, developed by a Danish manufacturer to treat smallpox.

Since the beginning of the current outbreak, Virginia has loosened eligibility rules for the vaccine as the federal government has pushed more Jynneos to the state. Initially, the vaccine was only available through local health departments to people who had been exposed to the virus or were close contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases.

Most recently, VDH made the vaccine available to people of any sexual orientation or gender who have had anonymous or multiple sexual partners in the prior two weeks, sex workers, and staff at establishments where sexual activity occurs.

“In the beginning with something like this, particularly when there’s some limitation on supply, public health needs to focus the vaccine effort on those who are at highest risk of illness and/or severe complications from the disease,” said Forlano. “As that supply and demand curve settled out, we were able to expand it.”

Forlano said she believes Virginia currently has sufficient Jynneos supply to meet demand.

Vaccination numbers have also declined in recent months, along with case numbers.

According to VDH, anyone exposed to mpox should be vaccinated as soon as possible. The agency operates a dedicated website on the virus here.

 

by Sarah Vogelsong, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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