With area hospitals and outpatient locations treating a rapidly rising number of COVID-19 patients, Valley Health is appealing to the community to curtail plans for New Year’s socializing and soften the holiday’s impact on our local health care resources.
“Our caregivers have given their all for nearly two years to save lives and fight COVID-19 in our community,” said Valley Health President and CEO Mark Nantz. “They have shown remarkable resiliency, but like all of us, they’re growing tired. We are asking the community to renew their vigilance, pull together, and help stop the spread of this virus.”
Valley Health’s six hospitals are currently treating 145 patients for COVID-19, about 85% of whom are unvaccinated. According to Iyad Sabbagh, MD, Chief Physician Executive, the most severely ill patients are unvaccinated, underscoring the importance of COVID-19 vaccination and boosters.
“The data and scientific evidence overwhelmingly point to the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccination,” said Dr. Sabbagh. “I implore residents to get vaccinated or boosted, continue to follow masking recommendations, and consider implementing social distancing measures such as canceling New Year’s events where the virus could easily spread. The Omicron variant we are now confronting is more contagious than previous versions of this virus and is spreading rapidly in our community.”
Hospital Visiting Curtailed – Level Red
Patient visitation at Valley Health hospitals remains at “Level Red” to reduce the risk of transmission between visitors, patients, and caregivers. At this time, only approved Care Partners are permitted to visit hospitalized patients. “Social visiting” is not allowed, and those accompanying patients to outpatient appointments will be asked to wait in their cars.
Our region is experiencing a shortage of testing resources – at-home test kits are unavailable at many local retailers and there are long lines at testing sites.
Your primary care physician is the first option for care for those with mild to moderate symptoms. When that is not an option, Valley Health Urgent Care locations offer online appointments with the following day’s schedule available beginning at midnight each day. Individuals can also select an in-person or telehealth appointment. Once available appointments are taken, individuals may walk-in for care. Walk-in wait times are currently high due to heavy volume.
Valley Health Urgent Care locations do not offer COVID testing for asymptomatic patients who were exposed to COVID and only offer travel testing for individuals with a provider’s order.
The Emergency Department is for Emergencies
Across the country, patient volumes in emergency rooms have led to long waits and capacity concerns. If you have virus symptoms, especially with complicating medical conditions, it is best to err on the side of caution – don’t wait to be seen. However, Valley Health officials are urging those with mild symptoms or who simply want a test to NOT go to the Emergency Department. Despite the current bottlenecks in testing, individuals are encouraged to locate tests through their primary care provider, an urgent care clinic, or an at-home antigen test.
“All of our hospital care teams remain ready to provide emergency and acute treatment for patients with illnesses and injuries of all kinds,” explained Sabbagh. “But we need the community’s help to safeguard resources. If you are having symptoms like shortness of breath or chest pain – which may indicate COVID-19 and many other critical illnesses – you should call 911 or seek care in an emergency department. But if you need testing, please don’t call 911.”
“We are still all in this together,” Nantz reflected. “We can help our coworkers, patients, families, and friends respond safely, rationally, and thoughtfully to create the best possible outcomes. We can listen to one another, be thoughtful, and understand that we are dealing with this crisis together, not separately.”
Visit www.valleyhealthlink.com/coronavirus for updates on Valley Health visitation policies and other service adjustments.
(from Valley Health Press Release)
Early voting underway for June 21 Republican Primary
Early voting is underway for the 6th Congressional District’s Republican primary, which is scheduled for June 21. The general election is on Nov. 8.
With Virginia’s recent redistricting, Frederick and Clarke Counties, along with the City of Winchester, are no longer in the 10th District but have become a part of the 6th District. The 6th District now comprises the Northern Shenandoah Valley and runs along the I-81 corridor to Roanoke.
Early voting began May 8 and is available from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on weekdays at the Warren County Office of Elections and Voter Registration located in the Warren County Health and Human Services Complex, at 465 W. 15th Street, Suite 800 in Front Royal. Drop boxes for early voting will be available at her office from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on weekdays.
Warren County Registrar Carol L. Tobin stated in an email Wednesday that “to date, Warren County has not had many voters turn out to take advantage of Early Voting in the 6th Congressional Republican Party Primary.”
She said that in addition to the weekday hours, her office will be open for voting on the two Saturdays before the primary — June 11 and 18 — from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Tobin noted that the Office of Elections will be closed on May 30, 2022, in observance of Memorial Day.
On Election Day, drop boxes will be available at each polling location. Ballots will be accepted in person until 7:00 pm on June 21. Mailed ballots will be accepted until noon on Friday, June 24, if they are postmarked by June 21.
Voters can register online here: Citizen Portal – Virginia Department of Elections or register at their local voter registration office.
To register in Virginia, one must:
• Be a resident of Virginia (a person who has come to Virginia for temporary purposes and intends to return to another state is not considered a resident for voting purposes).
• Be a U. S. Citizen.
• Be 18 years old (any person who is 17 years old and will be eighteen years of age at the next general election shall be permitted to register in advance and also vote in any intervening primary or special election).
• Not be registered and plan to vote in another state.
• Not currently declared mentally incompetent by a court of law.
• If convicted of a felony, your right to vote must have been restored.
For more information about voter registration, contact Carol L. Tobin, Warren County Director of Elections & General Registrar at (540) 635-4327.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for May 23-27, 2022
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new or revised entry since last week’s report.
*UPDATE* Mile marker 0 to 15, eastbound and westbound – Right shoulder closures for utility work from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm through June 25th.
*UPDATE* Mile marker 8 to 7, westbound – Right lane closures for utility work, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm through June 25th.
*UPDATE* Mile marker 11 to 12, eastbound – Single lane closures for inspection of bridge over Manassas Run and Route 647 (Dismal Hollow Road), Tuesday and Wednesday from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm.
*NEW* Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight alternating lane closures for mowing operations, Monday through Thursday nights from 8:00 pm to 6:00 am.
*NEW* Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Right shoulder closures for mowing and litter pickup, Monday through Friday from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight alternating lane closures for soil and rock testing, 8:00 pm to 7:00 am through the night of June 2nd.
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – No lane closures, but survey work in the right-of-way, 9:30 am to 3:30 pm through June 3rd.
Mile marker 300 to 299, southbound – Right shoulder closures for utility work, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm through June 25th.
*NEW* Route 340 (Stonewall Jackson Highway) – Overnight shoulder closures for vegetation control between Clarke County line and Route 661 (Fairground Road), Wednesday night from 7:00 pm to 5:00 am.
No lane closures were reported.
Various roads – Flagger traffic control for utility tree trimming, weekdays during daylight hours.
Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.
The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at my.vdot.virginia.gov. Agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
McFadden bows out of mayoral race, throws support to Vice-Mayor Lori Cockrell
Front Royal Town Councilman Joe McFadden has announced, through a media release from the Warren County Republican Committee, that he is withdrawing from his mayoral campaign.
In a recent release sent by GOP spokesman Steven Kurtz, McFadden wrote, “I have realized that I simply do not have the time required to collect signatures or run a campaign to get elected to the position of Mayor of Front Royal. I also understand that the level of time commitment needed to be Mayor may be more than I would be able to accommodate at this point in my life. When I announced I was running, I asked that you all vet the very best candidate. I’ve been working behind the scenes to do that very thing too.”
McFadden indicated that he and Vice-Mayor Lori Cockrell “had a long discussion after which we agreed that Lori would take my place and run for Mayor.”
McFadden stated in the release, “Over the past several months, I’ve come to the firm conclusion that Lori is in fact the best choice for the WCRC endorsement and for all Front Royal citizens.”
Contacted by telephone, McFadden told Royal Examiner that he remained committed to serving the citizens but felt he could best serve his constituents by supporting Cockrell in her run. He acknowledged that while the town council and mayoral races are supposed to be nonpartisan, he felt the Warren County Republican Committee would endorse Cockrell’s bid for mayor.
McFadden pointed out in the release that Cockrell “has my full committed support. I hope she will also garner the committee’s support as she collects signatures and campaigns to be the Mayor of Front Royal.”
Royal Examiner reached out to Cockrell, who replied via email, “After much prayer and following a long discussion with many family members and friends, I have decided to seek the endorsement of my party for a term as Mayor of the Town of Front Royal.
In the coming weeks, I plan to meet with the citizens of Front Royal on their doorstep and seek their advice on the direction of the town government over the next two years. Based on those discussions, I intend to propose a series of goals the town could achieve if I am fortunate enough to be elected Mayor. If elected, I will work closely with the council in both settings and achieve those goals. I greatly appreciate Councilman McFadden’s support of my candidacy.”
Mayor Chris Holloway was elected to serve a four-year term from January 2019 to December 2022. He previously served as Councilman from 2008 to 2010 and as Vice Mayor from 2010 to 2012. He indicated earlier this year that he would not launch a mayoral campaign.
In addition to Cockrell throwing her hat into the ring, councilman Gary Gillespie announced his bid for the mayor’s seat earlier this spring.
Strasburg Councilman John Massoud announces candidacy for State Senate
John Massoud recently announced his candidacy for the newly created 1st state senate District, which encompasses Shenandoah, Clarke County, Frederick County, Warren County, and Winchester City.
“After some deliberation and prayers from friends and family, we have decided to run for State Senate,” said Massoud.
“As State Senator, I will be the 21st conservative vote in bringing down Senator Louise Lucas’s Liberal “Brick Wall ” stonewalling Governor Youngkin and Speaker Gilbert’s legislation. I will vote to cut the gas tax, end the grocery tax, restore our constitutional right to bear arms and repeal red flag, support pro-life legislation to end taxpayer-funded abortion and late-term abortion in Virginia, and pass pro parent common-sense policies to put a stop to masking and woke bureaucrats shoving liberal nonsense down our kids’ throats. I will also ensure that ALL Virginian’s religious freedoms are respected and oppose so-called COVID mandates that only mean more government and less liberty.”
Massoud added: “My father moved to America in 1962 after my father was forced to leave because he refused to convert to Islam and renounce his Christian faith. America is the land of promise, but every day radical leftist policies encroach on our religious, social, and personal freedom. I am running because it’s time we stood up and said no to more government, more mandates, and win back Virginia for conservatives. If I am privileged to serve in the State Senate, I will be fighting for our Valley Values in Richmond.
School division proposes grading policy changes, relocating LFK students during construction
The superintendent and staff at Warren County Public School (WCPS) earlier this week detailed proposed plans for an updated division-wide grading policy, as well as where to relocate students during upcoming renovations at Leslie Fox Keyser (LFK) Elementary School.
WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger and other division staff provided information and recommendations to Warren County School Board Chair Kristen Pence, Vice-Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins during the board’s Wednesday, May 18 work session.
In discussing updates to the grading policy, Ballenger told the board that he has been meeting with three committees of teachers and administrators from elementary, middle, and high schools to revise the current policy, which most recently was updated in January 2018.
Ballenger’s presentation to the School Board included the recommended changes by each of the committees at the respected level, and he said a final draft will be presented to the board for consideration.
“We have been able to put out a decent product that teachers are proud of,” Ballenger said about the draft grading policy document.
One of the “biggest changes,” he said, includes the addition of definitions for several terms, including ‘no credit,’ which is defined as a zero for an assignment in middle or high school.
Ballenger explained that all three committees felt it was important to define what no credit means. “It means that you’re not getting anything,” he said. “We needed to make sure that students, parents, teachers, and everybody understood that no credit means a zero.”
For instance, the proposed high school grading policy states that credit will only be given for assignments that are attempted. No credit will be awarded for any assignments that are not attempted.
At the teacher’s discretion, students may be permitted to make up, retake, and/or correct material in a timely manner as appropriate to the course pacing, and students must schedule a time with the teacher that may fall outside of the course’s normal class time, according to the draft document.
The goal, said Ballenger, is to “make sure students take some responsibility for their grades.”
Pence, who said she appreciated the work that’s gone into drafting an updated grading policy, said: “This is going to be a hard year for some students, but hopefully, this gets them better prepared for the real world and college.”
WCPS is now seeking public input on this and all of the proposed grading policy changes. Click here to read through the draft policy.
Draft grant applications presented
WCPS Director of Elementary Instruction Lisa Rudacille, who is also the principal at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School, and WCPS Coordinator Title I & Title III Donna Boies presentation to School Board members with details for the school division’s Title I, II, III, and IV draft grant applications.
The Title I-A, II-A, III-A, and IV-A applications seek federal funding to improve basic instructional programs, teacher and principal training and recruiting, support for language instruction for English learners, and to increase the capacity of school divisions to provide all students with access to a well-rounded education, according to the administrators.
While no motion was needed on Wednesday from the School Board, Rudacille and Boies said a motion and vote for approval of the grant applications will be requested at the board’s June 1, meeting. They wanted to give board members a chance to go through the draft applications now before making any decision on them next month.
Where will LFK students go?
Division staff pointed out that with the construction of the LFK renovations scheduled to start in January 2023, there are several considerations to make now prior to the start date so that the board can make decisions and parents can be notified. Students will be relocated beginning in August, they said.
“We have to have a plan in place,” said Ballenger, who added that staff is looking at its options and what would be the best choices to ensure consistency for students, as well as accommodating for construction.
For instance, one of the challenges is limited space on the LFK property site that will not allow for modular buildings to be utilized for the duration of the project, which is slated to be completed by August 2024, said Livesay.
Ballenger added that the topography at LFK also poses an issue since the school is on a hill. And it’s not feasible to put a modular unit on the asphalt where it would take up parking spaces. Livesay noted associated additional costs to installing modulars, as well.
LFK Assistant Principal Jessica Vacca agreed with Ballenger’s recommendation to relocate fifth-grade students to Warren County Middle School during specific construction phases. The school’s administrators have experience with such a move because that’s what was done during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when students had to socially distance themselves.
Having a school with over 530 students, no walls, and no doors made it difficult to keep students at LFK during the pandemic, so the fifth graders went to the middle school. Vacca said that students and parents did well with that strategy.
Relocating pre-kindergarteners is also a consideration, said Hirsch. Some of the options suggested included moving their classes into available spaces at other elementary schools during renovations or to the Riverton United Methodist Church, which has offered class space to WCPS.
Hirsch noted that there are many students with disabilities among the incoming class of preschoolers who will need specific accommodations, as well, and he noted that minimizing their transitions is key.
Smith said there are also bus considerations to make, as well as food service, access to a nurse, ensuring the facility is ADA compliant, that there are sufficient communications available, and green space for outdoor play. “These are just some of the challenges to overcome,” he said.
Rinaldi said he supports the division’s current plan and recommendations and added that there’s always room for adjustments to be made.
Laurel Ridge partners with Opportunity Scholars to bring more education and career training opportunities to students
Laurel Ridge Community College on Wednesday signed an agreement with Opportunity Scholars that will open the door to higher education and career training for more students who come from families with lower and middle incomes.
Opportunity Scholars provides the up-front costs of education and career training – including short-term training – to Winchester and Frederick County students who plan to pursue jobs in their own communities in one of the following high-demand, high-skill areas: public service, healthcare, education, business, IT and trades.
Laurel Ridge President Kim Blosser said Knox Singleton, CEO of Opportunity Scholars, reached out to her in early 2018, shortly after she became president. He told her he was very interested in helping secure educations for young people. The two met shortly after and discussed the barriers to education many young people face.
“Knox is a great listener and he and I talked about the support systems that are often missing, and how those missing supports keep students from achieving all they can,” Dr. Blosser said.
She said it has been proven that “it’s better to be born rich than smart” when it comes to an individual’s later socio-economic status.
“We simply have to change that,” said President Blosser. “There is no reason these smart kids who just need the extra social and emotional and financial supports to be successful can’t achieve all they’re capable of achieving.”
Singleton said he was fortunate to be born into a middle-class family, which afforded him many opportunities.
“You don’t get to pick your parents, you don’t get to pick where you’re born,” he said. “This is really about the American dream.”
Nearly half of area students don’t further their education beyond high school, according to Singleton.
“At Opportunity Scholars, that is our mission,” he said. “We want to step in with that half, and we want to help them get an education. We have wonderful partners who will make that happen.”
As part of the agreement, Opportunity Scholars will pay for and provide personal, career and academic mentoring for high school and college preparation, as well as most of the expenses related to earning a degree or certification. Opportunity Scholars staff will articulate transfer pathways from Laurel Ridge to Shenandoah University for those careers that require a bachelor’s degree.
2019 Millbrook High School graduate Tihany Martinez-Gonzalez said she hopes to become an English as a Second Language teacher with the help of Opportunity Scholars.
“Before I met Opportunity Scholars, I was worried – where was my career going to go, was I going to be able to go to school?” she said. “I couldn’t afford it.”
When she arrived in the U.S. from El Salvador, Martinez-Gonzalez didn’t speak English, and learning ESL is difficult, she said.
“When I saw a lot of kids needed help [with ESL], I thought, I want to do that, too,” she said of her decision to teach English.
Del. Mark Keam, who represents Virginia’s 35th District, and has previously served as vice chair of the Finance Committee and chair of the Higher Education Subcommittee, was impressed by the program.
“This is such an amazing opportunity that you’re creating, not just for our students, but for the entire region,” he said.
Del. Keam said he’d like to see Opportunity Scholars extend around Virginia. Rather than thinking of education as a product, we should be thinking of it as part of the nation’s infrastructure, he said.
“It’s the backbone for every other service that America needs,” said Del. Keam.
Learn more about the program at opportunityscholars.org.