Connect with us

Regional News

Lawyer fees draw scrutiny as Camp Lejeune claims stack up

Published

on

David and Adair Keller started their married life together in 1977 at Camp Lejeune, a military training base on the Atlantic Coast in Jacksonville, North Carolina. David was a Marine Corps field artillery officer then, and they lived together on the base for about six months.

But that sojourn had an outsize impact on their lives.

Forty years later, in January 2018, Adair was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. She died six months later at age 68. There’s a chance her illness was caused by toxic chemicals that seeped into the water military families at the base drank, cooked with, and washed with for decades.

When the PACT Act passed last August, David asked a neighbor who worked at a personal injury law firm in Greenville, South Carolina, if he thought he might have a case. Now Keller is filing a
wrongful death claim against the federal government under a section of that measure that allows veterans, their family members, and others who spent at least 30 days at Camp Lejeune between Aug. 1, 1953, and the end of 1987 to seek damages against the government for harm caused by exposure to the toxic water.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act didn’t attract the spotlight like the aspects of PACT that deal with the harms soldiers experienced from burn pit fumes overseas. But for veterans who served at this North Carolina post, it is the realization of a decades-long effort to hold the government accountable.

As cases begin to proceed through the legal system, some veterans’ advocates worry that families who have already suffered from toxic exposure may get shortchanged by a process that’s supposed to provide them with a measure of closure and financial relief. They support limiting lawyers’ fees, some of which may exceed half of a veteran’s award.

The government estimates as many as a million people were exposed to Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water during the 34-year period covered by the law. Personal injury lawyers have taken notice. In recent months, TV ads trying to drum up business have been impossible to ignore: “If you or a loved one were stationed at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and developed cancer, call now. You may be entitled to significant compensation.”

During the year that ended in March, TV ads soliciting Camp Lejeune claims reached an estimated $123 million, according to X Ante, a company that tracks mass tort litigation advertising. Camp Lejeune TV ads currently rank third among the top targets for mass tort claims since 2012, behind only asbestos and mesothelioma ($619 million) and Roundup weed killer ($132 million).

“The attorneys have calculated out that they stand to make a pot of money,” said Autrey James, chairman of the American Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission. “We need Congress to put caps on how much these attorneys can charge.”

For Keller, a 73-year-old former workers’ compensation lawyer, it’s a matter of accountability. Because of his experience, he came out of retirement last year to represent Camp Lejeune victims. He is now working part-time at the Greenville law firm he spoke with initially, and that now represents his late wife. It currently has roughly 65 Camp Lejeune cases.

Under the law, veterans must first file an administrative claim with the Judge Advocate General of the Navy’s Tort Claims Unit. If, after six months, the Navy hasn’t settled the claim, or if it denies the claim, veterans can file suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

So far, approximately 23,000 claims have been filed with the Navy, none of which have been fully adjudicated, said Patricia Babb, a spokesperson for the Judge Advocate General’s office.

This legal remedy has been a long time coming. In the early 1980s, the Marine Corps learned that three of Camp Lejeune’s water distribution systems were contaminated with industrial chemicals that had seeped into the water from leaking underground storage tanks, industrial spills, and waste disposal sites. The Corps shut them down in the mid-1980s, and the area was declared a hazardous waste site in 1989 under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund law.

Federal studies later showed that toxic chemicals in the water — benzene, vinyl chloride, and TCE, among others — were present at levels that could have caused a range of cancers and other serious illnesses. In 2012, after an intense lobbying campaign by veterans, Congress passed a law that gave veterans and their families free medical care if they got sick with any of more than a dozen diseases associated with the toxic water.

But thousands of veterans who felt the Navy had stonewalled and delayed addressing the contamination filed civil suits seeking damages. In 2019, the federal government denied all the claims, citing state and federal statutes that shielded the government.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act opened a two-year window for veterans and their families to pursue cases against the federal government.


And Liz Hartman, the commander of American Legion Post 539 in nearby New Bern, now sees new reason for alarm. Some veterans are signing contingency fee contracts in which they agree to pay lawyers representing them 40% to 60% of any money they receive, Hartman said.

“Many of these people are elderly and very vulnerable, and they’re being preyed upon,” she said.

Personal injury lawyers generally work on a contingency basis. If they win the case, they receive a portion of the award, often one-third. If they lose, they get nothing. The firm Keller is working
with charges 40% for Camp Lejeune cases.

If anything, fees for the Camp Lejeune cases should be lower than usual, not higher, said Matt Webb, senior vice president for legal reform policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform.

“The PACT Act changed the burden of proof and made it so much easier for claimants to win their cases,” he said. Under the law, the evidence must show that the exposure was as likely as not to have caused the harm, rather than having to prove that there’s a greater than 50% chance that the claim is true, called a “preponderance” standard.

In addition, the law requires that any award a veteran receives be offset by any amount they received in a disability payment or health benefit related to their condition. This could substantially reduce the amount of their award.

Veterans “could end up owing money,” Webb said. “I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but particularly if a lawyer is taking a huge chunk in fees, it could happen.”

Trial lawyers say a marginally lower burden of proof doesn’t mean the cases will be easy to win.

It’s a new law with no case law or judicial opinions to refer to, said Mike Cox, a Livonia, Michigan, lawyer and former Marine infantryman who was stationed at Camp Lejeune in the early 1980s. He’s now representing more than 200 veterans in such cases.

Many of the diseases and conditions people developed are not among those the government acknowledges may be linked to the contaminated water, Cox said. Even for veterans whose illnesses are recognized by the government, lawyers will have to show where they were based, what kind of cancer they have, and their level of toxic exposure, he said. His fee for representing these veterans is 33% of any award they receive.

In addition to proving they were stationed at Camp Lejeune during the years covered by the law, “the claimant also must demonstrate to the Navy he/she is suffering from an injury that is related to the exposure to (or ingestion of) contaminated water,” said Babb, the Judge Advocate General spokesperson.

With stories circulating of attorney contingency fees that could potentially eat up more than half of veterans’ awards, some lawmakers have stepped in.

Under a bill proposed by Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Camp Lejeune attorney fees would be capped at 20% in cases settled as administrative claims and 33.3% in those filed as civil lawsuits in court.

Another House proposal, introduced by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Mike Bost (R-Ill.) is identical to one introduced in the Senate by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), which would cap fees at 12% and 17% under similar circumstances.

According to David Keller, based on his conversations with other lawyers, “nobody is objecting to something that is reasonable,” such as caps at 20% and 33%.

Many of Keller’s clients are older men who are really sick and probably won’t live long, he said. Some tell him they’re reluctant to sue the government.

“What I say to them is, ‘When we signed the contract with Uncle Sam, we gave Uncle Sam a blank check for our arms, our legs, and maybe even our lives. But we didn’t sign a blank check to get a serious disease from contaminated water, either them or their spouses or children.”


By Michelle Andrews | KFF Health News

KFF Health News , formerly known as Kaiser Health News (KHN), is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF — the independent source for health policy research, polling, and journalism.


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.

Share the News:

Regional News

Maryland Lawmakers Push to Designate the Chesapeake Bay as a National Recreation Area

Published

on

WASHINGTON – The Chesapeake Bay could see a boost in status under legislation introduced this summer to designate the region as a National Recreation Area.

Sponsored by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, and Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Maryland, the Chesapeake National Recreation Area Act would allow the National Park Service to bring into its network sites in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which covers over 60,000 square miles across six states and Washington, D.C. Sites would be included either through donations or purchases, but the new designation would not affect the rights of other property owners along the watershed.

“We know that the Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure, and it’s a global treasure,” Van Hollen said in an interview with Capital News Service. “We believe that by including this national treasure within the National Park Service system, we will ensure that it is protected in the future.”

Efforts to establish a Chesapeake National Recreation Area date back to the 2000s, when a study called for the bay to become a unit of the National Park Service. This year’s legislation also comes amid attempts to mitigate the declining health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and efforts to highlight lesser-known parts of bay history, including the contributions of Native Americans and Black watermen to the ecosystem and economy.

The bill was created through a “unique process,” Van Hollen said. In 2021, in a practice uncommon among most lawmakers, he and Sarbanes created a working group to solicit feedback on what the legislation should look like.

The bill is currently in committee, but Van Hollen said a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers is “determined to get it over the finish line” by the end of this congressional session.

Currently, the park service administers certain sites in the watershed, including those designated as national monument units. The Chesapeake Gateways program, established through federal legislation in 1998, allows the park service to partner with and provide assistance to local and regional organizations involved in the bay.

But lawmakers are calling for the park service to play a larger and more administrative role, especially as they strive to tell previously untold stories about the watershed’s inhabitants.

“Right now, there’s no entity whose mission is to help tell the stories of the Chesapeake Bay,” Van Hollen said. “If you look at the Chesapeake Bay, in many ways, its history is a microcosm of our American history… so there are all sorts of stories.”

For Maryland residents like Vincent Leggett, whose families have been involved in those stories for generations as avid fishermen, shipbuilders, and dockworkers, the bill offers the promise of highlighting history that’s previously been passed over.

Leggett is a member of Blacks of the Chesapeake — an organization that aims to highlight Black history in the watershed — which was part of the working group for the bill.

“African Americans, I feel, were the backbone to the maritime and seafood industries here in the Chesapeake Bay region, but our stories were not elevated, nor were they exposed through our own voices,” Leggett said.

Leggett hopes that expanding the reach of the park service in the region will also draw these populations into bay conservation. Only 7% of the state’s bay shoreline is publicly accessible, he said, causing a “sense of alienation” for people of color in the region who can’t get involved in cleanup efforts.

According to the Chesapeake Bay Program, the main entity responsible for the conservation and restoration of the bay, there are 1,296 public access points to the body of water across its six watershed states and Washington, D.C.

The bill, if passed, would authorize the park service to administer additional landmarks in the Chesapeake Bay watershed — a step Van Hollen said would further improve public access to the bay.

Blacks of the Chesapeake has worked with state and federal lawmakers in Maryland on several projects along the bay, Leggett said, including planning a heritage park at the historically-Black Elktonia Beach in Annapolis and ensuring that Black history is highlighted at Whitehall Manor, which was built by enslaved individuals. Some of these sites, if acquired by the park service, could become highlights of a Chesapeake National Recreation Area.


The bill’s sponsors also touted the legislation as an opportunity to create jobs and enhance Maryland’s economy.

“By designating a unified National Recreation Area for the Chesapeake Bay, this legislation seeks to elevate the regional stories that shaped our nation’s history, promote the spirit of stewardship, improve public access, and spur economic growth across the bay region,” Sarbanes said in an e-mail to CNS.

The lawmakers have projected that turning the watershed into a park service unit will boost tourism in the region, augmenting its already major role in the Bay states’ economies. In Maryland, recreational boating generates an average of $2.03 billion and 32,025 jobs each year, and wildlife-watching excursions generate over $600 million a year, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Leggett said that the bill is an opportunity to foster these industries while increasing awareness of the bay’s integral role in the region.

“I think that by bringing more attention to the Chesapeake Bay… it just generates so many millions of dollars and employment opportunities and tourism,” he said. “I think that as we endeavor to improve the water quality of the bay, that is going to enhance the fisheries, it is going to enhance heritage tourism and all of the related businesses that surround it.”

By SHIFRA DAYAK
Capital News Service

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Regional News

Kaine Warns 80K Childcare Spots Could Be Lost in Virginia If Federal Grant Program Expires

Published

on

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats introduced a bill Wednesday to extend funding for five years for a pandemic-era childcare subsidy program set to expire at the end of the month.

The legislation would extend the child care stabilization grant program, which Congress established in 2021 to help childcare providers meet additional costs during the pandemic. The bill would provide $16 billion in mandatory funding each year for the next five years.

Congress initially provided $24 billion for the program as part of Democrats’ massive COVID-19 relief bill in 2021.

Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat and the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, joined by congressional colleagues, childcare providers, and advocates, called on Congress to act before this “lifeline” is cut off on Sept. 30, noting its economy-wide impact.

“When I say we need to act more urgently before things get worse — I don’t just mean parents are going to feel the pain or child care workers are going to feel the pain,” Murray said. “I mean, the entire U.S. economy is going to feel this.”

If this childcare funding ends, childcare providers may raise costs or not be able to continue serving families, Murray said, and parents may also be forced to leave their jobs to take care of their kids.

Too many people are forced to choose between their careers and caring for their children, said Rep. Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat and ranking member on the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

The bill attracted 35 co-sponsors in the Senate and 78 in the House. All the co-sponsors are Democrats except U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with the party.

“Over 3 million kids will be in danger of losing quality child care they have today” if Congress does not take action, said Sanders, the chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “Over 230,000 childcare workers will be in danger of losing their jobs, and over 70,000 childcare facilities all over America will likely be shut down.”

Sanders said the country’s workforce crisis would only be worsened if childcare relief is cut off.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, said about 80,000 children could lose childcare spots in Virginia, while nearly 2,800 early childhood education workers could see layoffs.

“We know if child care is accessible and it’s affordable, parents and our children survive,” said U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the leading Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. “So we need to keep up those investments to help parents. That is what our obligation is in this time of difficulty and struggle for people in the economy.”

Without a strong childcare industry, the economy will “cease to function,” DeLauro said.

Cynthia Davis, the founder and CEO of Kings and Queens Childcare Center in Washington, D.C., spoke at the press conference to explain how her business could be affected by a loss of funding.

Davis said that if relief runs out at the end of the month, her business could see layoffs, increased rates, or have to “drop out of the public child care program and start serving private families only.” Or her doors could close permanently, she said.

“This will devastate low-income and single-parent households and parents experiencing homelessness who hope to enroll their children in my program,” Davis said. “All children, no matter their family’s income level, deserve an equal chance at the start of their lives.”


U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a Democrat from New Jersey, recalled her experiences as a mother searching for affordable child care for her now 17-year-old daughter.

“I can remember it like it was yesterday,” Sherrill said. “That horrible feeling as I tried to find a place that I was comfortable leaving my baby girl and also could afford. And there were times when I paid my entire paycheck towards affording that quality child care.”

This is an issue that disproportionately affects women, said U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez, a California Democrat.

U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a New York Democrat and former middle school principal, said it is important to recognize the impact of quality child care on the individual lives of children. Without access to quality child care, he said, “children are more likely to be exposed to toxic stress and chronic trauma,” which can affect their brain development.

A disproportionate number of children with trauma are then placed in special education classes, as well as “being caught up in something we call the school-to-prison pipeline,” Bowman said.

“We do not and will not have a healthy democracy, a healthy society, and a healthy human race without investing in child care,” Bowman said.

 

by Samantha Dietel, 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.

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Regional News

Maryland Gov Moore Says He No Interest in Higher Office; Talks Economy, Public Safety

Published

on

WASHINGTON  — Gov. Wes Moore fended off questions Tuesday on whether he’ll run in the 2024 Democratic presidential primary during an interview with global news organization Semafor, saying he had no interest in higher office and turning the subject to his nontraditional political background.

“I think it’s really important for people to remember that I am probably the most improbable governor in this country,” Moore said in answer to the first question from Semafor Cofounder and Editor-at-large Steve Clemons. “I’m a person who has never come from a political lineage.”

Moore, an author, nonprofit executive, and former Army officer, had not held political office before winning the governor’s election in 2022.

Moore turned his focus to Maryland, discussing plans to revive the state’s economy through targeted investments in its assets and better serve constituents with a data-driven approach to policy changes.

Moore often defines Maryland as “asset-rich and strategy-poor” and cites the contrast presented by the state’s high concentration of prominent institutions of higher education, military facilities, and government agencies, such as the National Security Agency, with its sluggish economic growth rate of .2% in the past 4 years. The current economic strategy of spreading funding across numerous projects “doesn’t make sense,” he said, explaining he’ll use a more focused approach.

In June, Moore established the Maryland Economic Council, charging it with creating economic recommendations by the next legislative session in January. After the General Assembly passed numerous measures to affect systemic budgetary changes during the last session, a report from the Department of Legislative Services predicted a $418 million structural deficit for fiscal year 2025.

Moore said his administration will use data to drive policy decisions, especially when looking to minimize socioeconomic disparities, and he used environmental injustice in Baltimore as an example.

“You can’t understand what these disparities look like if we aren’t able to fully appreciate the measure of intentionality that very much existed in the creation of that and the lack of intentionality when it comes to how we’re going to address it.”

The administration must consider the root causes of poverty, investing in transit, the public education system, and programs to combat the teacher shortage, Moore said, to jumpstart economic growth.

Creating new opportunities for young people to succeed in different areas will help fight juvenile crime and keep violence out of communities, Moore said. Using data and technology in innovative ways can also help ensure that solutions to crime are predictive rather than reactive.

Increasing public safety is his top priority, Moore said, highlighting the need for “appropriate intensity, absolute integrity, and full accountability” in the policing system as well as a need for crisis intervention teams to shift the response of mental health calls away from police officers. Over $100 million was invested directly in behavioral health, Moore said.

Moore noted that police officers respond to all situations, and many times, they are met with circumstances they cannot fix. He called for change, saying that public safety is partly a matter of creating a better livelihood for people.

Moore said his administration invested $122 million in local law enforcement, $17.5 million of which went to Baltimore City, where the police department has been under a federal agreement to make reforms since 2016. Moore also invested in intelligence sharing through the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center and organized crime units.

In Baltimore, other reform means combating gun trafficking, filling the police shortage with well-trained officers, and developing more intentional solutions, said Moore, who places special importance on these issues as a Baltimore native.

“I love my state, all 24 jurisdictions. But I’m a Baltimorean,” Moore said. “That’s who I am. Can’t understand me if you don’t understand Baltimore.”

 

By KIERSTEN HACKER


Capital News Service

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Regional News

Journalism Educators, Trade Organizations Endorse Bipartisan Federal Shield Law

Published

on

RICHMOND, Va. — Journalists could have more federal protections if a reintroduced shield law bill can pass Congress this term.

The PRESS Act would protect journalists, including citizen journalists, from federal court-ordered disclosure of information about a source. There are a handful of limitations such as information that could prevent an act of terrorism against the U.S., according to the bill.

The bill would also prevent important data on a reporter’s personal device from being seized without notice. The same would apply to data held by a covered service provider like a telecommunications company.

Both the House and Senate versions of the bill have bipartisan support. U.S. Rep. Ben Cline, R-Va, is a co-sponsor of the current iteration of the House bill. The House passed the original resolution introduced in 2021, but it failed to advance from a Senate committee. The Senate bill also did not advance last term.

Virginia is one of 10 states without a formal shield law, according to the legal group Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Currently, Virginia courts recognize a reporter’s privilege, meaning the right not to be compelled to testify or disclose sources and information in court. The proposed federal law may provide a model or incentive for a shield law at the state level, according to Mechelle Hankerson, president of the Society of Professional Journalists Virginia Pro Chapter.

“We’re sort of at the mercy of the courts’ whims and interpretations of situations and the First Amendment when we don’t have a shield law,” Hankerson said. “Even though the courts have ruled favorably for us as journalists, there’s no guarantee that that will continue.”

The national SPJ organization has advocated for a federal shield law for the past two decades, Hankerson said. One of the reasons it has been a slow process at both the federal and state levels is because many courts have ruled in favor of protecting journalists, which obscures the need for shield laws.

Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, attempted three times to establish a state shield law. A version that passed in 2020 was amended to apply protections in a criminal proceeding. The bill has specific parameters for the definition of a working journalist that are not found in the PRESS Act, such as that they must belong to a news organization.

“I don’t think that there is anything on the horizon or that has happened super recently in Virginia that makes us feel like we’re in danger if we don’t get a shield law on the books,” Hankerson said. “But it is something, the longer it’s not there, the more vulnerable we are as journalists.”

Protections given by shield laws such as the PRESS Act allow journalists and news organizations to establish trusted relationships with sources, according to Lin Weeks, a senior staff attorney at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

The organization provides free counsel and legal resources to journalists to protect First Amendment freedoms and newsgathering rights, according to its website.

“If the government for courts or civil litigants can compel journalists to reveal the subjects of those conversations of their unpublished work product, that undermines journalists’ ability to do their job,” Weeks said.

The PRESS Act would codify some of the guardrails the Department of Justice has in place through its updated news media guidelines, which limit access to journalists’ records.

“With something like the DOJ guidelines, those can be changed without a legislative vote from administration to administration,” Weeks said. “Whereas, the PRESS Act would last through multiple administrations.”

The bill shields both professional and citizen journalists from being forced to disclose their sources by broadly defining a journalist to include any person who regularly gathers or records information with the intention of public dissemination.

Genelle Belmas holds a doctorate in mass communication and is a professor of media law at the University of Kansas. A broad definition is a good thing, Belmas said. Any individual who gathers and organizes information to disseminate it to the public should be protected in the same way as a journalist with a major or local news organization.


“The bigger question, as some people have suggested, is: ‘Are you committing acts of journalism?’” Belmas said.

The First Amendment doesn’t make those distinctions, she said.

A number of trade organizations have endorsed the bill, including the News/Media Alliance, Radio Television Digital News Association, and the National Association of Broadcasters. Two international journalism educator organizations recently announced support.

The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication stated the bill “empowers the media to play its essential role as a watchdog holding our government accountable.”

AEJMC and ASJMC announced to their members that they plan to lobby to support the bill.

 

By Emily Richardson
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.

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Regional News

Food and Drug Administration Approves COVID Boosters for Upcoming Season

Published

on

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the latest round of COVID-19 boosters as public health officials brace for another cold and flu season.

An advisory panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is scheduled to vote on recommendations on Tuesday, the final step in the process before people will be able to get the shots.

“Vaccination remains critical to public health and continued protection against serious consequences of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death,” said Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

“The public can be assured that these updated vaccines have met the agency’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality,” Marks added. “We very much encourage those who are eligible to consider getting vaccinated.”

The updated COVID-19 booster shots are made by Moderna and Pfizer.

The FDA said in a statement that people 5 and older can get one dose of the updated mRNA COVID-19 vaccine as long as it’s been at least two months since their last dose of the vaccine.

Vaccinated children between six months and 4 years old can get one or two doses of the updated vaccine. Unvaccinated children in the same age range are eligible for three doses of the updated Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or two doses of the updated Moderna shot.

“The updated vaccines are expected to provide good protection against COVID-19 from the currently circulating variants,” the FDA said in a statement. “Barring the emergence of a markedly more virulent variant, the FDA anticipates that the composition of COVID-19 vaccines may need to be updated annually, as is done for the seasonal influenza vaccine.”

Hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 have been trending upward in recent weeks, though officials aren’t expressing alarm at the rise in severe illness.

The number of hospitalizations has risen by nearly 16%, while deaths increased by almost 11%, according to data from the CDC.

The percentage of Americans getting COVID-19 shots has steadily decreased since the first round of vaccinations rolled out in the last weeks of 2020.

More than 81% of the country got at least one dose of the original vaccine, but 70% completed the primary two-dose series. Just 17% of the U.S. population decided to get the bivalent vaccine that was approved last year, according to CDC data.

 

by Jennifer Shutt, 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.

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Regional News

SpaceX Crew-6 Returns After Landmark 186-Day Mission

Published

on

A New Chapter in International Space Collaboration and Scientific Research.

In the early morning hours off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft plunged through Earth’s atmosphere to deliver four astronauts back to solid ground. The event marked the end of NASA’s sixth commercial crew rotation mission to the International Space Station (ISS), which spanned 186 days, involved extensive scientific experimentation, and demonstrated the global collaborative effort behind contemporary space exploration.

Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, left, NASA astronaut Warren “Woody” Hoburg, second from left, NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen, second from right, and UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, right, are seen inside the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour spacecraft onboard the SpaceX recovery ship MEGAN shortly after having landed in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, Monday, Sept. 4, 2023. Bowen, Hoburg, Alneyadi, and Fedyaev are returning after nearly six months in space as part of Expedition 69 aboard the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, and the UAE’s first long-duration astronaut, Sultan Alneyadi, touched down safely at 12:17 a.m. EDT. Within hours, teams aboard SpaceX recovery vessels retrieved the spacecraft and its crew for transportation to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

During their time on the ISS, the Crew-6 mission traveled approximately 78,875,292 miles, completed 2,976 orbits around Earth, and conducted hundreds of scientific experiments. Their impressive journey began on March 2, 2023, when a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Dragon spacecraft docked with the ISS the following day, where the team later prepared the station for the arrival of new solar arrays and participated in a myriad of scientific investigations.

The significance of Crew-6’s mission transcends mere numbers and statistics. Beyond its duration and mileage, the international team conducted groundbreaking research and participated in advanced technology demonstrations. Stephen Bowen led three spacewalks, with Hoburg joining for two and Alneyadi for one. They installed two new IROSAs (International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Arrays) to augment the station’s power generation capabilities.

Moreover, the crew contributed to experiments that will have a lasting impact both in space and on Earth. These ranged from plant genetic adaptations in space to human health monitoring in microgravity. They even assisted in a student robotic challenge and launched Saskatchewan’s first satellite, aimed at testing a new radiation detection and protection system based on melanin.

Crew-6’s mission was part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, an initiative designed to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective means of transportation to and from the ISS. The Dragon spacecraft, aptly named “Endeavour,” will now return to SpaceX’s refurbishing facility at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station for inspection, analysis, and preparation for its next mission.

The success of Crew-6 paves the way for future international collaborations in space exploration, including NASA’s ambitious Artemis program to return humans to the Moon and beyond. As Administrator Bill Nelson aptly noted, this mission “demonstrated humanity’s shared ambition to reach new cosmic shores.”

The safe return of Crew-6 not only marks a significant milestone for NASA and SpaceX but also sets a precedent for what international collaboration can achieve in the final frontier. As we continue to look to the skies, missions like these remind us that the quest for knowledge and exploration is a journey best undertaken together.

Share the News:
Continue Reading

 

Thank You to our Local Business Participants:

@AHIER

Aders Insurance Agency, Inc (State Farm)

Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning

Apple Dumpling Learning Center

Apple House

Auto Care Clinic

Avery-Hess Realty, Marilyn King

Beaver Tree Services

Blake and Co. Hair Spa

Blue Mountain Creative Consulting

Blue Ridge Arts Council

Blue Ridge Education

BNI Shenandoah Valley

C&C's Ice Cream Shop

Card My Yard

CBM Mortgage, Michelle Napier

Christine Binnix - McEnearney Associates

Code Jamboree LLC

Code Ninjas Front Royal

Cool Techs Heating and Air

Down Home Comfort Bakery

Downtown Market

Dusty's Country Store

Edward Jones-Bret Hrbek

Explore Art & Clay

Family Preservation Services

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Independent Business Alliance

Front Royal/Warren County C-CAP

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Treatment Center

Front Royal Women's Resource Center

Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

Fussell Florist

G&M Auto Sales Inc

Garcia & Gavino Family Bakery

Gourmet Delights Gifts & Framing

Green to Ground Electrical

Groups Recover Together

Habitat for Humanity

Groups Recover Together

House of Hope

I Want Candy

I'm Just Me Movement

Jean’s Jewelers

Jen Avery, REALTOR & Jenspiration, LLC

Key Move Properties, LLC

KW Solutions

Legal Services Plans of Northern Shenendoah

Main Street Travel

Makeover Marketing Systems

Marlow Automotive Group

Mary Carnahan Graphic Design

Merchants on Main Street

Mountain Trails

Mountain View Music

National Media Services

Natural Results Chiropractic Clinic

No Doubt Accounting

Northwestern Community Services Board

Ole Timers Antiques

Penny Lane Hair Co.

Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

Phoenix Project

Reaching Out Now

Rotary Club of Warren County

Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Cinemas

Royal Examiner

Royal Family Bowling Center

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Oak Computers

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Spice

Ruby Yoga

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

Shenandoah Shores Management Group

St. Luke Community Clinic

Strites Doughnuts

Studio Verde

The Arc of Warren County

The Institute for Association & Nonprofit Research

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Valley Chorale

Vetbuilder.com

Warren Charge (Bennett's Chapel, Limeton, Asbury)

Warren Coalition

Warren County Democratic Committee

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warren County DSS Job Development

Warrior Psychotherapy Services, PLLC

WCPS Work-Based Learning

What Matters & Beth Medved Waller, Inc Real Estate

White Picket Fence

Woodward House on Manor Grade

King Cartoons

Front Royal
57°
Fog
7:04 am7:04 pm EDT
Feels like: 57°F
Wind: 3mph N
Humidity: 93%
Pressure: 30.2"Hg
UV index: 0
WedThuFri
64/48°F
66/55°F
70/57°F

Upcoming Events

Sep
27
Wed
10:30 am College Day @ Corron Community Development Center
College Day @ Corron Community Development Center
Sep 27 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
College Day @ Corron Community Development Center
Join us for College Day at the Middletown Campus, 10:30 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, Sept. 27, in the Corron Community Development Center. Meet with reps from more than 40 public and private universities, including Bluefield[...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Sep 27 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
Sep
30
Sat
10:00 am Fall Wild Edible Plants: Earth C... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Wild Edible Plants: Earth C... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Sep 30 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Fall Wild Edible Plants: Earth Connections Series @ Sky Meadows State Park
Carriage Barn in the Historic Area. Join professional outdoor instructor Tim MacWelch to learn about the remarkable seasonal wild edible and medicinal plants of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This full-day hike will cover native and[...]
Oct
4
Wed
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Oct 4 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
Oct
7
Sat
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 7 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]
1:00 pm Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Oct 7 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
New Bluegrass and traditional music jam the first Saturday of each month starting Feb. 4th, from 1pm till 4pm. All levels of playing invited to attend.
Oct
8
Sun
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 8 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]
Oct
11
Wed
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Oct 11 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
Oct
14
Sat
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 14 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]
6:00 pm Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 14 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Discover our International Dark-Sky Park! Our evenings begin with a half-hour children’s “Junior Astronomer” program, followed by a discussion about the importance of dark skies and light conservation. Then join NASA’s Jet Propulsion[...]