The Triangle: News in 5 (Oct 25)

Early voting, a dead-even tie in Virginia's gubernatorial race, the 'delta plus' variant, local seasonal events and more.

Good morning, Historic Triangle!

We’re heading into the final week of October, and it looks like we can expect some cooler fall weather, with weekend highs only in the 60s and overnight and morning lows in the 40s and 50s. There’s also a possibility for some severe weather to move through our region tonight.

This is also the last week for early voting leading up to the Nov. 2 General Election, so if you’re planning to cast your ballot before Election Day, be sure to do so by Saturday, Oct. 30 – the final day for in-person early voting in Virginia.

Halloween is also just around the corner, and you’ll notice the events section highlights plenty of fun activities taking place throughout the Historic Triangle this week (many of which are outdoors).

If you’re planning on taking the kids trick-or-treating – or even just decorating and/or handing out candy – check out Nextdoor’s annual Treat Map, which offers an interactive map designed to help neighbors celebrate Halloween.

There’s a lot going on this week, but The Triangle is breaking down the top local, statewide and national news stories into a quick, 5-minute read. Let’s get started.

Local

1. Thousands of residents across the Historic Triangle have already voted early, local registrars say.

  • The City of Williamsburg reported that nearly one-fifth of its 9,929 registered voters have already cast their ballots, according to The Virginia Gazette. Registrar Tina Reitzel said 668 residents requested absentee ballots, and 267 of those still need to be returned by voters.
  • Early voter turnout has been similar in James City County, where about 19% of the 62,000 registered voters have voted early, JCC registrar Dianna Moorman said.
  • The count is slightly lower in York County. About 14.1% of the county’s 49,089 registered voters voted early either in-person or by absentee ballot as of Thursday, according to York County registrar Walter Latham.
  • The final day for early voting in Virginia is Saturday, Oct. 30. See the registrar websites for Williamsburg, James City County and York County for hours and additional information.

2. A WJCC school board meeting grew tense last week as some parents accused the board of ignoring their concerns.

  • Tensions escalated at the Oct. 19 meeting during the portion devoted to citizen comments, WYDaily reports. A number of speakers confronted the board to express their frustrations with the district’s handling of several controversial topics, including Critical Race Theory, transgender bathroom policies and mask mandates.
  • Most of the speakers were students and parents; however, some stated that they were simply concerned WJCC citizens and did not have children in the school system. Several of the speakers accused the board of bullying or silencing voices from within the community.
  • “I’m really concerned that what I see happening around the country is a total disconnect between those on the board, those who are teaching, those who are elected officials, assigned officials, politicians running for office and parents in the public,” said one speaker, Brenda Abbott.
  • Board member Lisa Ownby shot back at the comments, arguing that the division is not teaching CRT and that the accusations were out of touch with reality. She further expressed concern that the heightening tensions could lead to resignations of quality teachers and administrators.
  • “This community needs to understand we’re going to run off our teachers. We’re going to run them off. We’re looking at K-12 collapsing,” an emotional Ownby said. She also stated that the superintendent has made it clear that the district is not planning to mandate vaccines for students.
  • The tensions mirror conflicts seen in other school districts throughout the nation and the state, particularly Loudon County, where culture wars have ignited over controversial issues relating to school policies and curriculum.

Statewide

1. With just over a week to go until election day, the Virginia governor’s race keeps heating up.

  • The latest Monmouth University poll, released Tuesday, shows the race is literally dead even, with Youngkin and McAuliffe tied at 46% each. Seven percent of voters are still undecided, and 2% prefer a different candidate.
  • Youngkin has gained ground among registered voters in the past few weeks. McAuliffe lost the slim, 5-point lead he held in September, the poll shows. Particularly notable is the declining support for McAuliffe among women: his lead among registered women voters in the state dipped to just four points compared to 14 points last month.
  • “Suburban women, especially in Northern Virginia, have been crucial to the sizable victories Democrats have enjoyed in the commonwealth since 2017,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, in a statement. “However, their support is not registering at the same level this time around. This is due partly to a shift in key issues important to these voters and partly to dampened enthusiasm among the party faithful.”
  • McAuliffe also continues to face enthusiasm gap challenges, according to the latest data. 49% of Republicans say they’re more enthusiastic about this election compared to previous gubernatorial races, whereas only 26% of Democrats say the same.
  • As the election draws near, McAuliffe is pulling out all the stops. Yesterday, he campaigned with former President Barack Obama, who offered sharp words of criticism against Youngkin, accusing him of “cultivat[ing] support from those who seek to teat down our democracy.”
  • Meanwhile, Youngkin is finishing out the final stretch of the race by kicking off a statewide bus tour. He’s not currently involving any big-name campaign surrogates in the tour. Instead, he’s focused on talking more about his immediate plans, which include cutting taxes, rolling back certain business regulations and establishing 20 new charter schools in the state.
  • “This is no longer a campaign. This is a movement,” Youngkin told a crowd of supporters in Henrico on Saturday.

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – OCTOBER 23: Former U.S. President Barack Obama (C) campaigns with Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (2nd R) at Virginia Commonwealth University October 23, 2021 in Richmond, Virginia. The Virginia gubernatorial election, pitting McAuliffe against Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, is November 2. Also pictured (L-R) are Democratic candidate for Attorney General Mark Herring, Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor Hala Ayala, and Dorothy McAuliffe. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

PORTSMOUTH, VIRGINIA – OCTOBER 25: Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin greets supporters after speaking at a campaign event at the Commodore Theatre on October 25, 2021 in Norfolk, Virginia. Youngkin is facing Democratic candidate and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe in the state election that will be held on November 2. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

2. One-fifth of nursing homes in Virginia are failing to meet minimum federal staffing standards, but key stakeholders can’t agree on a solution.

  • The extent of the staffing shortage problem – and its impacts – were outlined in a new study presented before the General Assembly’s Joint Commission on Health Care. According to the report, facilities serving low-income and Black residents are being disproportionately affected, and 21% of all facilities in Virginia lack total direct care staffing. Particularly problematic is the shortage of CNA staffing, with 59% of all facilities failing to meet the minimum expected staffing requirement in that category.
  • The data also showed that Virginia has more facilities with low staffing rates than other states. The report further emphasized that facilities with low staffing “are more likely to have poor quality and health inspection ratings.”
  • Several possible solutions were outlined in the study. In particular, it suggests that Virginia could adopt a minimum staffing requirement for all nursing homes – something most states already have in place. It also notes that nursing homes will continue to struggle with staff retention unless they make efforts to boost wages and benefits, increase training and opportunities for advancement and ensure a healthy workplace culture.
  • However, industry leaders are pushing back against the push for staff ratio requirements, according to WAVY News. A recent survey from the Virginia Center for Assisted Living showed that staff burnout from Covid-19 and nationwide labor shortages are further exacerbating the situation. 59% of facilities surveyed said there were few to no applicants available to fill their staffing needs, and some argue that a mandate would only cause further stress.
  • In support of a staffing mandate ✔️: “Family members have spent many years waiting and hoping for change and their family members die. We keep saying the same things over and over and nobody hears us,” said Sam Kukich, executive director of Dignity for the Aged. “Please do not wait another year to mandate ratios.”
  • Against a staffing mandate ❌: “We want to hire staff. The truth is the workforce is just not there right now. We have seen people exiting healthcare. They’re not coming to work in our facilities and this could not be a worse time quite frankly to consider a staffing mandate,” said Deborah L. Petrine, Chairman and CEO of Commonwealth Care of Roanoke.

National

1. The CDC says it’s closely monitoring a new Covid-19 variant dubbed ‘delta plus,’ which is spreading in the UK.

  • The new variant, also known as AY4.2, contains two key mutations in the spike protein, but there is no evidence yet that it causes more severe illness than the original delta variant.
  • While some have expressed concerns that the variant could be more transmissible and further undermine the efficacy of the current Covid-19 vaccines, experts say it’s too soon to tell whether or not the mutation is more detrimental to the public than the original delta variant.
  • The U.K is currently dealing with an alarming increase in Covid-19 cases and reported an average of 40,000-50,000 new cases per day over the past week. Health officials are trying to determine the cause behind the sudden increase as the region heads into what may be another winter marked by surging rates of the virus.
  • “We absolutely are following the genomic sequencing of this very carefully,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on Meet the Press Sunday. “We have had a handful of cases here in the United States, but it has not taken off as it has in the U.K.”
  • Meanwhile, the CDC has officially greenlighted mixing and matching Covid-19 booster shots. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering getting a booster.

2. The west coast is dealing with historic rainfall as a series of powerful ‘atmospheric river’ storms are lashing the region – and other areas of the country are expected to face severe weather this week, too.

  • The atmospheric river is causing flooding, mudslides and widespread power outages throughout the Pacific Northwest. Two people had died in the storm system after a tree fell on a vehicle in Washington state.
  • The storm is connected to a record-breaking “bomb cyclone,” which was expected to remain at sea. A bomb cyclone refers to a non-tropical storm that occurs when its pressure dips at least 24 mb in a 24-hour period. The current storm is believed to be the strongest on record and was elevated to a Category 5, the highest level on the scale.
  • Power was knocked out at over 160,000 homes and businesses in California, 170,000 in Washington and 28,000 in Oregon on Sunday as a result of the extreme weather. Meanwhile, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri reported tornadoes, damaging winds and large hail Sunday night.
  • Weather models are also predicting a possible rare fall nor’easter for the mid-Atlantic and northeast midweek. Because the event is still several days away, specific details are not yet being forecasted, but this system is one to keep an eye on.

3. The FDA announced more onion recalls – and you might need to check your fridge.

  • The CDC issued a food safety alert on Oct. 20 after a salmonella outbreak was associated with onions. The contaminated onions were reportedly transported from Mexico and distributed by a company called ProSource Inc. While the company said the onions were last imported to the U.S on Aug. 31, they may still be in pantries throughout the nation due to the long shelf life of the vegetable.
  • The CDC health alert includes the following brands: Big Bull, Peak Fresh Produce, Sierra Madre, Markon First Crop, Markon Essentials, Rio Blue, ProSource, Rio Valley and Sysco Imperial.
  • Over the weekend, Potandon Produce, L.L.C of Idaho and Keeler Family Farms of New Mexico also announced recalls. Potandon is recalling Green Giant Fresh whole yellow onions (2 lb. bags, 3 lb. bags and 5 lb. bags), whole white onions (2 lb. bags) and whole red onions (2 lb. bags). No other Green Giant Fresh products or canned or frozen vegetables are affected. The FDA also says consumers, restaurants and retailers should not eat, serve or sell yellow, white or red onions from Keeler Family Farms.
  • On Sunday, popular meal-kit companies HelloFresh and EveryPlate announced they are also voluntarily recalling onions. Anyone who received onions in one of their meal kits between July 7 through Sept. 8 should dispose of them as a precautionary measure, the companies say.
  • The CDC said that as of Thursday, 652 people have had confirmed salmonella infections linked to the onions, and 129 were hospitalized. Cases have been reported in 37 states, but the CDC expects that number to increase. The highest numbers of cases have been reported in Texas and Oklahoma, but at least 59 cases have also been reported in Virginia.
  • “Throw away any whole red, white, or yellow onions you have at home that do not have a sticker or packaging,” the CDC said in a statement. “If you can’t tell where the onions are from, don’t buy or eat them.”
  • Symptoms of salmonella include diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, fever and dehydration, which begins between six hours and six days after being exposed to the bacteria.

Local Covid-19 Update

Hospitalizations : 1,222 people are currently hospitalized with confirmed or probable cases of Covid-19, according to the most recently released data from VDH on Sunday, Oct. 24. Of those individuals, 308 are currently hospitalized in the ICU.

Daily cases ️: The 7-day moving average of new daily cases was 1,730 as of Friday, Oct. 23.

Vaccination rates : 69.2% of the state’s population has had at least one dose, while 62.3% are fully vaccinated.

School case rates : As of Monday, Oct. 25, there are currently 32 students confirmed positive in isolation and 244 students in quarantine in WJCC schools, according to the Covid-19 dashboard. One staff member is positive in isolation and one additional staff member is in quarantine. There are currently 18 active positive cases in York County, according to their dashboard.

Fatalities: There have been a total of 13,668 deaths due to Covid-19 in Virginia to date, according to VDH. Forty-four additional deaths were reported on Friday, Oct. 22, including 9 in the Hampton Roads region.

Events

Multiple Days

Scrumptious: Chowderfest & nOktoberfest – Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg (on the lawn). Chowderfest will take place Friday 10/29 from 6:30-9:30 pm. $36; includes unlimited chowder and two drink tickets. nOktoberfest will take place Saturday, Oct. 30 from 6:30-9:30 pm. $25; includes craft beer and pretzles. Combined tickets for both events are $50.

50/50 Raffles for Pets & Pumpkins. Virtual all week. Enter to win 50 percent of proceeds (up to $5,000). Each $20 raffle ticket represents one entry; proceeds benefit The Cat Corner, Inc. and Animal Aid Society. Drawing will take place on Oct. 31.

Monday, Oct. 25

Baby Storytime– Williamsburg Library at 515 Scotland St. Program for babies from birth to 18 months old and their caregivers Ongoing event featuring 15 minutes of songs, fingerplays and games. May be held outside for safety. 10:00 am.

Tuesday, Oct. 26

Chick-Fil-A Mooretown Family Fall Festival – Chick-fil-a at 6732 Mooretown Rd. in Williamsburg. Featuring trunk-or-treat with community heroes. Costumes encouraged (but no scary ones). Non-perishable new food items (no glass containers) will be collected for the Williamsburg-based nonprofit FISH. 4:30-6:30 pm. Free.

Ariel String Quartet – Williamsburg Regional Library at 515 Scotland St. Masks required. 6:30-9:30 pm. Tickets: $25; $5 for students. Season subscriptions also available. See website for details.

Wednesday, Oct. 27

Hump Day Throwdown with Bobby Blackhat Band – Lawn of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. 6:00 pm. Free outdoor concert.

Free Fall Festival at Dominion Village – 4132 Longhill Rd. in Williamsburg. Family-friendly fall festival featuring trunk-or-treat and games in an outdoor parking lot to allow for social distancing. 6-8 pm. Free.

Thursday, Oct. 28

Halloween with Heroes – JCC Law Enforcement Center in Williamsburg. Costumes encouraged. Trick-or-treat and meet with local first responders. 6-8 pm. Free.

Friday, Oct. 29

Fall Family Festival – Williamsburg Christian Academy. Featuring trunk-or-treat, hayrides and more. 5-8 pm. Free and open to the public.

The Thin Veil of Yorktown – Meets at Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters in Yorktown. Tickets: $10. No children under 12 allowed.

“The War of the Worlds” Live Radio Performance – Williamsburg Library at 515 Scotland St. Re-enactment of the original 1938 “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast on the 83rd anniversary of the event. 7:30 pm. Free.

Saturday, Oct. 30

Paws at the River: Yorktown Market Days – at Riverwalk Landing in Yorktown. Designed to bring awareness to animal rescue organizations and help place adoptable pets in their “furever” homes. Featuring free photos with canine companions between 9 am – 12 pm and an annual Halloween Pet Costume parade at 1 pm. 9 am – 3 pm. Free.

Storytime and Craft – Williamsburg Library at 515 Scotland St. Features songs, stories, a read along and a craft project. A ticket must be reserved an hour beforehand at the Youth Services desk. 2:00-2:30 pm. Free.

Wreck of the Sea Venture – Art Museum of Colonial Williamsburg. Storytelling event based on one of the most famous shipwreck stories in the world. 4:30 – 5:30 pm. Free.

Trunk-or-Treat at Monticello Starbucks – 5227 Monticello Ave. in Williamsburg. 6-8 pm. ONLY the Monticello location is offering this event. Featuring trunk-or-treat, outdoor coloring and crafts and free hot chocolate for kids. Costumes encouraged. Free.

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Have questions, comments or an event you’d like to tell me about? I’d love to hear from you! Email me at [email protected].

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