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Work begins in new Habitat homes in Warren County

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New duplex build coming to Front Royal. Photo courtesy of Warren County Habitat for Humanity.

Warren County Habitat for Humanity (WCHFH) broke ground on their new duplex build at the corner of Brown Avenue and Cherrydale Avenue in Front Royal today. Footers were dug, with foundation work to begin next week. According to WCHFH Executive Director, Jessica Priest-Cahill, the homes are expected to be completed in May. WCHFH is actively recruiting volunteers to assist on this building project. They are also seeking volunteers to work with their Critical Home Repair Program. Construction experience is not required to volunteer; experienced carpenters and tradesmen oversee and instruct volunteers on site. Any group or individual interested in volunteering should contact Jessica Priest-Cahill at (540)551-3232 or jessica@warrencountyhabitat.org.

WCHFH Board President, Amanda Slate, had this to say, “It is an exciting day for Warren County Habitat. We are looking to increase our presence and impact on the community, and the start of our newest build is just the first step on that journey.”

Warren County Habitat for Humanity is a local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity. “Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort on a community farm in southern Georgia. The Christian housing organization has since grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in local communities across all 50 states in the U.S., and in more than 70 countries. Families and individuals in need of a hand up partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. Through shelter, we empower. To learn more, visit habitat.org.” (habitat.org)

For more information contact Jessica Priest-Cahill, WCHFH Executive Director, at (540)551-3232 or jessica@warrencountyhabitat.org, or visit www.warrencountyhabitat.org.

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EDA in Focus

COVID-19 meeting restrictions lead to 2nd EDA grand jury extension

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Contacted by phone, Rockingham County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Parker confirmed that Judge Clark Ritchie had extended the term of the Warren County Special Grand Jury impaneled to explore potential criminality tied to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA) civil litigation.

That extension is for six months and came as the grand jury’s first extension was coming to an end Tuesday, March 31. The EDA special grand jury was empaneled shortly after the EDA civil litigation was filed on March 26, 2019. Its first six-month term was extended another six months in October 2019.

Parker said the newest six-month extension comes from an “abundance of caution” both legally and medically.

The COVID-19 pandemic response has stopped many activities we once took for granted, including some court proceedings. Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini

Due to restrictions on public gatherings ordered by Governor Ralph Northam as part of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s emergency management response to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, what have been described as non-essential court functions have joined other enterprises deemed “non-essential” in the private sector in being put on hold at least through much of April. Consequently, it was decided it was unsafe for the grand jury to continue meeting in this pandemic emergency response environment.

In this fluid medical and legal environment, it is uncertain when the EDA Special Grand Jury will be able to meet again. However, Parker said he believes once those meetings begin, it will not take anywhere near six months for the grand jury to complete its business.

“Our goal is to conclude as soon as possible,” Parker said.

The entire current Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has recused from all EDA legal matters due to past or ongoing professional or personal relationships with involved parties. Jennifer McDonald during her local Rotary presidency, circa 2016-17.

Following the recusal from EDA legal matters of Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney John Bell and his entire staff in the wake of his November 2019 election, Parker was appointed to handle criminal indictments stemming from alleged EDA financial improprieties discovered by a forensic audit commissioned by Warren County on behalf of the EDA in September 2018.

The EDA civil litigation is now seeking recovery of $21.3 million from 15 defendants, including former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald and two real estate companies she is alleged to have used to misdirect EDA assets to her own benefit.

In a series of filings by the EDA grand jury, McDonald now faces a total of 34 financial felony charges. Also indicted criminally on fewer charges has been a tight circle around McDonald, including her husband Samuel North, her former EDA Administrative Assistant Michelle “Missy” Henry, and former EDA small business loan recipient and B&G Goods proprietor William Lambert. At the time of his business relationship with the EDA Lambert is purported to have been in a relationship with a McDonald sister.

Criminal charges against another McDonald associate, Donald Poe, were dropped by Parker due to an approaching January perjury trial date he was not prepared for with his late 2019 appointment and the mountain of paperwork filed in relation to the EDA civil and criminal cases – estimated at or around a million pages of documentation.

Donald Poe following a 2019 court hearing – indicted, charges dropped, what does the future hold?

However, as he noted at the time, Parker can refile the criminal indictments against Poe if he feels the evidence so warrants. Poe’s perjury charges related to his testimony to the EDA Special Grand Jury regarding his business ties to McDonald.

The next EDA criminal case hearing dates are scheduled for April 17. Parker said he should have more information on how things will be proceeding forward within the coming week.

A federal grand jury has also been impaneled in Harrisonburg related to the EDA financial allegations and civil litigation. On April 16, 2019, agents from the FBI and Virginia State Police searched and seized documents and materials from the EDA’s Kendrick Lane offices, including the executive director’s office that had been cordoned off and locked down since McDonald’s December 20, 2018 resignation under increasing scrutiny by the investigative auditing firm Cherry Bekaert and her EDA Board of Directors. However, the federal grand jury has yet to issue any indictments from its investigation.

Above, FBI, State, and local authorities gathered to search and seize possible evidence at EDA headquarters in April 2019; including from Jennifer McDonald’s former office, below, which is pictured being locked down, including from remote access to her computer, following her Dec. 20, 2018 resignation.

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Health

FDA requests removal of all Ranitidine products (Zantac) from the market

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced (April 1, 2020) it is requesting manufacturers to withdraw all prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) ranitidine drugs from the market immediately. This is the latest step in an ongoing investigation of a contaminant known as N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) in ranitidine medications (commonly known by the brand name Zantac). The agency has determined that the impurity in some ranitidine products increases over time and when stored at higher than room temperatures and may result in consumer exposure to unacceptable levels of this impurity. As a result of this immediate market withdrawal request, ranitidine products will not be available for new or existing prescriptions or OTC use in the U.S.

“The FDA is committed to ensuring that the medicines Americans take are safe and effective. We make every effort to investigate potential health risks and provide our recommendations to the public based on the best available science. We didn’t observe unacceptable levels of NDMA in many of the samples that we tested. However, since we don’t know how or for how long the product might have been stored, we decided that it should not be available to consumers and patients unless its quality can be assured,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “The FDA will continue our efforts to ensure impurities in other drugs do not exceed acceptable limits so that patients can continue taking medicines without concern.”

NDMA is a probable human carcinogen (a substance that could cause cancer). In the summer of 2019, the FDA became aware of independent laboratory testing that found NDMA in ranitidine. Low levels of NDMA are commonly ingested in the diet, for example, NDMA is present in foods and in water. These low levels would not be expected to lead to an increase in the risk of cancer. However, sustained higher levels of exposure may increase the risk of cancer in humans. The FDA conducted thorough laboratory tests and found NDMA in ranitidine at low levels. At the time, the agency did not have enough scientific evidence to recommend whether individuals should continue or stop taking ranitidine medicines, and continued its investigation and warned the public in September 2019 of the potential risks and to consider alternative OTC and prescription treatments.

New FDA testing and evaluation prompted by information from third-party laboratories confirmed that NDMA levels increase in ranitidine even under normal storage conditions, and NDMA has been found to increase significantly in samples stored at higher temperatures, including temperatures the product may be exposed to during distribution and handling by consumers. The testing also showed that the older a ranitidine product is, or the longer the length of time since it was manufactured, the greater the level of NDMA. These conditions may raise the level of NDMA in the ranitidine product above the acceptable daily intake limit.

With today’s announcement, the FDA is sending letters to all manufacturers of ranitidine requesting they withdraw their products from the market. The FDA is also advising consumers taking OTC ranitidine to stop taking any tablets or liquid they currently have, dispose of them properly and not buy more; for those who wish to continue treating their condition, they should consider using other approved OTC products. Patients taking prescription ranitidine should speak with their health care professional about other treatment options before stopping the medicine, as there are multiple drugs approved for the same or similar uses as ranitidine that do not carry the same risks from NDMA. To date, the FDA’s testing has not found NDMA in famotidine (Pepcid), cimetidine (Tagamet), esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid) or omeprazole (Prilosec).

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA recommends patients and consumers not take their medicines to a drug take-back location but follow the specific disposal instructions in the medication guide or package insert or follow the agency’s recommended steps, which include ways to safely dispose of these medications at home.

The FDA continues its ongoing review, surveillance, compliance, and pharmaceutical quality efforts across every product area, and will continue to work with drug manufacturers to ensure safe, effective and high-quality drugs for the American public.

The FDA encourages health care professionals and patients to report adverse reactions or quality problems with any human drugs to the agency’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program:

Complete and submit the report online at www.fda.gov/medwatch/report.htm; or

Download and complete the form, then submit it via fax at 1-800-FDA-0178.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

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VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for – April 6 – 10, 2020

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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 entry or a revised entry since last week’s report.

INTERSTATE 66
*NEW* Mile marker 0 to 15, eastbound and westbound – Mobile alternating lane closures for bridge sweeping. Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Mile marker 0 to 15, eastbound – Right shoulder closures for shoulder work. Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
*NEW* Mile marker 9 to 11, eastbound – Alternating shoulder closures for tree removal operations. Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
*NEW* Mile marker 11 to 7, westbound – Right shoulder closure for sign installations. Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

INTERSTATE 81
*NEW*Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight alternating shoulder closures for bridge sweeping, 8 p.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. Thursday.
*NEW* Mile marker 300 to 299, southbound – Right shoulder closures for sign installations. Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

PRIMARY ROADS
No lane closures reported.

SECONDARY ROADS
*UPDATE* Route 613 (Bentonville Road) – Northbound right shoulder closures for utility work at various locations between Route 340 (Stonewall Jackson Highway) and Route 738 (Jennings Lane), 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. through April 30.
Route 659 (Hardesty Road) – Stop-and-proceed traffic pattern just east of Route 603 (Howellsville Road) for pipe replacement, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through April 24. Vehicles limited to 9 feet in width.

Various roads – Flagger traffic control for utility tree trimming. Monday through Friday 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 http://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 https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/. Agents are available 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week.

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Social Security benefits will be paid on time and other updates related to the COVID-19 pandemic

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Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, reminds the public that Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit payments will continue to be paid on time during the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency also reminds everyone to be aware of scammers who try to take advantage of the pandemic to trick people into providing personal information or payment via retail gift cards, wire transfers, internet currency, or by mailing cash, to maintain Social Security benefit payments or receive economic impact payments from the Department of the Treasury.

“Social Security will pay monthly benefits on time and these payments will not be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Commissioner Saul said. “I want our beneficiaries to be aware that scammers may try to trick you into thinking the pandemic is stopping or somehow changing your Social Security payments, but that is not true. Don’t be fooled.”

The Department of the Treasury will soon provide information about economic impact payments under the recently enacted law, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. Treasury, not Social Security, will be making direct payments to eligible people. Please do not call Social Security about these payments as the agency does not have information to share.

The agency continues to direct the public to its online self-service options whenever possible. Local offices are closed to the public but are available by phone. People can find their local field office phone number by accessing the Field Office Locator.

To allow available agents to provide better phone coverage, the agency is temporarily changing the National 800 Number hours starting on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. The hours will change from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. local time to 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. local time. The agency is experiencing longer than normal wait times on the 800 Number and asks the public to remain patient, use its online services at www.socialsecurity.gov, or call their local office.

Please visit the agency’s COVID-19 web page at www.socialsecurity.gov/coronavirus/ for important information and updates.

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Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – April 3, 2020

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Governor Northam joins the Virginia Emergency Support Team to share the latest updates on the COVID-19 response. Here is the latest update:

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Legislative Update

Important updates from Congressman Ben Cline – April 3, 2020

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Since last week’s passage of H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, federal agencies have issued guidelines for how this bill will be implemented. This important bill will utilize new resources to fight on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic in America and will inject funding into the economy to help American workers, families, small businesses, and industries so that our country can not only survive this crisis but thrive when we do.

Day by day, more details continue to be made available about both the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses and the Economic Impact Payments available to individuals, which are provisions of the CARES Act designed to provide key relief to the American people in the wake of the spread of the coronavirus. For an overview of action the U.S. Department of the Treasury has taken since the bill’s passage, please visit treasury.gov/cares.

The Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force, which is being run by FEMA and focused on meeting the demand for critical medical resources and supplies, published a fact sheet detailing its four-pronged approach to address issues related to critical protective and life-saving equipment: Preservation, Acceleration, Expansion, and Allocation.

 

To learn more about the Economic Impact Payments available to individuals through the CARES Act, please visit irs.gov. There, you will find information about who is eligible to receive payments and whether you need to take any action in order to receive the payments, among other helpful information. The IRS has said it will begin distributing the checks in the next three weeks.

 

For business owners struggling to keep their doors open and their employees’ taken care of during this difficult time, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has two loan programs. First, the recently passed CARES Act created the Paycheck Protection Program, an initiative that provides 100% federally guaranteed loans to help small businesses through the COVID-19 crisis.

Secondly, the SBA has now approved Virginia for its Economic Injury Disaster Program. The SBA will work directly with state governors to provide targeted, low-interest loans to small businesses and non-profits that have been severely impacted. Please visit sba.gov/coronavirus for more information on the two loan programs.

This week, the President announced that the CDC’s nationwide guidance to slow the spread of the virus, which was published 15 days ago, will be extended until at least April 30th. As Dr. Fauci said, “The reason why we feel so strongly about the necessity of the additional 30 days is that now is the time, whenever you’re having an effect, not to take your foot off the accelerator.”

 

Additionally, during one of this week’s briefings, Dr. Fauci said that vaccine trials are, “right on target for the year to year and a half.” On the subject of treating the virus, Dr. Birx announced that a coronavirus antibody test could be available within this month. Such a test could help identify those who have had the virus and recovered.

As of March 30, the U.S. Navy’s gigantic floating hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, arrived in New York City where it has been sent to help relieve the pressure on the city’s hospitals that are overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. The Comfort’s 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms will largely be used for non-coronavirus patients, freeing up much-needed space at the city’s overtaxed hospitals. Likewise, the USNS Mercy sits on the shores of Los Angeles.

 

Rest assured, I will continue to keep you informed, monitor the situation in Virginia and around the country, and work with my colleagues to ensure the full, coordinated force of the federal government is behind our efforts to stop the spread of this disease. Please visit cline.house.gov/covid-19 for additional resources.

If you experience symptoms or have been exposed to someone recently diagnosed with COVID-19, contact your doctor immediately to determine if you need screening.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Resources:

General CDC Information

How to Protect Yourself

Symptoms and Testing

If You Are at Higher Risk

If You Are Sick

Frequently Asked Questions

Follow @CDCgov on Twitter

Resources for Business:

Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources

Paycheck Protection Program FAQs for Small Businesses

Other:

Governor Orders Closure of Non-Essential Businesses and Schools

How could the coronavirus affect my visit to Washington, DC?

State Corporation Commission suspends service disconnections for 60 days

Virginia Employment Commission waives the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits

Virginia DMV Closed – Driver and vehicle credentials have been extended 60 days

How to aid the relief effort

FDA Warns of Fraudulent Home Testing Kits

CDC Urges Americans to Limit Non-Essential Travel

Trust Your Sources

Tax Day Moved to July 15th

Salem VA Medical Center Postpone All Non-Essential Procedures

 

 

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Front Royal
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Upcoming Events

Apr
7
Tue
10:00 am Focus on Health Employment & Edu... @ LFCC | Science and Health Professions Building
Focus on Health Employment & Edu... @ LFCC | Science and Health Professions Building
Apr 7 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Focus on Health Employment & Education Fair @ LFCC | Science and Health Professions Building
Two sessions: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. Different vendors at each session. Held in the Science and Health Professions Building at LFCC’s Middletown Campus. Contact Taylor Luther for more[...]
4:30 pm Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Apr 7 @ 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Children will explore popular books and book series through S.T.E.M. activities, games, food, and more! Tuesday, March 17 –  Children will explore popular books and book series through S.T.E.M. activities, games, food, and more! This[...]
Apr
8
Wed
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Apr 8 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, March 18 and Thursday, March 19: Our stories, songs, and craft this week will be about friends! Come to story time and see your friends,[...]
Apr
9
Thu
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Apr 9 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, March 18 and Thursday, March 19: Our stories, songs, and craft this week will be about friends! Come to story time and see your friends,[...]
Apr
10
Fri
6:00 pm Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Apr 10 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Apr
14
Tue
4:30 pm Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Apr 14 @ 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Children will explore popular books and book series through S.T.E.M. activities, games, food, and more! Tuesday, March 17 –  Children will explore popular books and book series through S.T.E.M. activities, games, food, and more! This[...]
Apr
15
Wed
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Apr 15 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, March 18 and Thursday, March 19: Our stories, songs, and craft this week will be about friends! Come to story time and see your friends,[...]
Apr
16
Thu
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Apr 16 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, March 18 and Thursday, March 19: Our stories, songs, and craft this week will be about friends! Come to story time and see your friends,[...]
Apr
17
Fri
6:00 pm Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Apr 17 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Apr
18
Sat
9:00 am Community Earth Day Celebration @ Skyline High School
Community Earth Day Celebration @ Skyline High School
Apr 18 @ 9:00 am – 2:00 pm
Community Earth Day Celebration @ Skyline High School
In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, Front Royal/Warren County Tree Stewards would like to plant at least 50 Native Trees in our community. We are working with the Department of Forestry to[...]