Here are the week’s top stories.
1. A new coffee shop will open in Norge next week.
- Anonymous Coffee, located at 7500 Richmond Rd., Suite B in Norge, will open its doors on Wednesday, March 1. A grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 3 pm that day.
- What to expect: Owner Terrance Maigi told The Triangle customers will find “a sleek and fresh atmosphere with a very cool lounge vibe” as well as a “very welcoming feel from the staff.” The café-style shop will specialize in hand-crafted, artesian coffees.
- Maigi said the name of the coffeehouse was chosen in honor of the many people who live anonymously with a chronic condition or mental health challenge.
- “We live anonymously because of the stigma that is attached to that label,” Maigi said. “We want to encourage that community by showing that you can be very successful and attain your dreams regardless.”
- Anonymous Coffee will be open Monday-Saturday, 7 am – 3 pm. For updates, follow the coffee shop on Facebook and Instagram.
2. The executive director of the Newport News/Williamsburg airport has been fired.
- After five years at the helm, Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport’s executive director, Michael Giardino, was terminated by the Peninsula Airport Commission (PAC) on Monday, Feb. 12.
- The PAC – a board that oversees the airport – voted 4-1 to oust Giardino effective immediately, the Daily Press reports. The decision came as a surprise to some, given that Giardino had recently expressed optimism about the airport’s future after brokering a deal with Avelo Airport in October 2022. The agreement brought low-cost, nonstop service from Newport News to Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando, FL.
- Giardino replaced former airport chief Ken Spirito, who was fired in 2017 after the board determined he misused his company credit card. Spirito was later convicted in federal court on several charges of money laundering and misusing public money. He was sentenced to 30 months of home incarceration with an electronic monitor.
- But Giardino was unable to generate enough financial sustainability for the struggling airport. In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, Delta stopped service at the airport – and never again returned. American Airlines also significantly reduced its operations there. During the fiscal year that ended last July, the airport endured an operating loss of $2.6 million, according to budget numbers.
- Giardino was also the target of controversy last year after he defended the airport’s decision to shut down the Patrick Henry Mobile Home Park. The move caused dozens of longtime residents to be kicked out, and many were unable to transport their homes elsewhere because of the high costs involved. Some were forced to abandon their homes even after spending thousands of dollars renovating them, and still others found themselves with no place to live due to high local housing costs spurred by the pandemic and inflation.
- Giardino was rumored to have been escorted out of the building by security after the vote, according to The Peninsula Chronicle. Those claims were denied by the airport’s public relations office. It is not yet clear who will take over in Giardino’s absence, but an interim director is expected to be appointed.
3. A James City County police officer who allegedly shot a fellow officer has been released from jail.
- A James City County police officer who was accused of shooting a fellow officer last month was released from jail last week following a bond hearing, the Virginia Gazette reports.
- Michael Trenton Rusk, 24, was arrested and charged with shooting Christopher Gibson, 38, on Scotland Street in Williamsburg on Jan. 25. Rusk was being held at the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail. But a judge ruled Thursday that he could be released to live with his parents, as long as he has no access to firearms.
- Rusk was charged with malicious wounding, using a firearm in the commission of a felony and discharging a firearm within city limits, according to jail records.
- The two men were said to be friends and had been at Brickhouse Tavern before the shooting took place, according to authorities. Gibson was shot several times and was taken to Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News, where he was treated for serious injuries.
4. Covid deaths recently spiked in Virginia nursing homes, new data shows.
- A new reportby AARP’s Nursing Home Covid-19 Dashboardshows that another recent wave of Covid cases caused a 160% increase in deaths among Virginia nursing home residents in December and January. That rate is seven times the national average, according to Virginia AARP Director Jim Dau. Nationwide, a 23% spike was seen during that same time period.
- “It’s a reminder that Covid-19 is still a tremendously fatal disease for our state’s most vulnerable people,” Dau told 13News Now.
- Cases also spiked by 56% at long-term care facilities in the Commonwealth during that same period. Dau said the data underscores that family members should continue taking precautions to protect high-risk loved ones.
- “We might think that we don’t need to practice the same kind of behaviors that we did in the last couple of years to help minimize the spread or even, you know, minimize the severity of the disease,” Dau told WSLS 10 News. “But for our most vulnerable residents, those people in nursing homes, Covid remains a highly, highly dangerous thing.”
- AARP reports that about half of Virginia nursing home residents are up to date on vaccines, while 23% of staff are. AARP recommends that family members of nursing home residents ask a series of questions about Covid-19 safety protocols to keep their loved one safe.
- The report also found that a quarter of all Virginia facilities reported a shortage of nurses or aids during the four-week period ending Jan. 22. Last week, both chambers of the General Assembly passed a bill that would institute staffing minimums at nursing homes. The legislation will now go to Gov. Youngkin’s desk for consideration.
- Virginia is one of 15 states in the nation without minimum staffing standards. A number of nursing homes throughout the Richmond area and Hampton Roads have come under federal scrutiny for low ratings, which were partially attributed to insufficient staffing levels.
5. James City County police will offer free firearms classes to the public next month.
- The James City County Police Department is set to offer one-session firearms safety classes that will cover critical topics, including firearm handling, safety, and storage and laws related to carrying a concealed handgun in Virginia.
- Classes will be offered on three different Saturdays – March 4, March 25 and April 29, 9 am-noon – and on Tuesday, April 4, 6-9 pm. Gun locks will be provided to all participants through JCCPD’s partners at Project ChildSafe.
- The training is open to community members of all ages and will take place at the Law Enforcement Center located at 4600 Opportunity Way. The course will not involve hands-on training, and all personal firearms should be left at home in a secure location. Those who want to attend must pre-register as spaces are limited. To reserve a seat, sign up here.
6. Newport News Public Schools are hiring 30 new security officers.
- More than a month after a 6-year-old student shot his teacher at Richneck Elementary School, Newport News Public Schools unveiled plans to bump up school security.
- During a work session presentation on Tuesday, board members heard about the biggest safety concerns of faculty and staff and how the district plans to address those worries, WAVY News reports. During a Jan. 26 survey of 1,300 employees, 73% of faculty and staff said they supported random bag searches, while more than half said clear backpacks would be an effective precaution.
- In response, school division administrators will implement a series of new safety measures, including adding security officers in each school, partnering with the Newport News Police Department for an Adopt an Officer lunch program, hiring a Director of Safe Schools, purchasing 12 more metal detectors and rolling out a new Weapon Detection System, which will be up and running by March 14.
- Meanwhile, Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew announced that the investigation into the Richneck Elementary School shooting has been completed by his department. During a “Chat with the Chief” event held on social media Tuesday morning, Drew said the investigation has been turned over to The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, where a decision will be made regarding whether or not to file any charges.
In the National News
- Russia suspends nuclear treaty with US: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday that Moscow will suspend its participation in the only remaining U.S-Russia arms control treaty, the AP reports. The remarks were made during a speech in which Putin accused the U.S and its NATO allies of deliberately trying to destroy Russia. Amid the rising tensions, President Biden is set to meet with eastern flank NATO leaders Wednesday before wrapping up a four-day visit to Poland and Ukraine.
- EPA orders Norfolk Southern to clean up East Palestine: The EPA has ordered Norfolk Southern to “identify and clean up” contaminated soil and water in East Palestine, Ohio after a train derailed there two weeks ago, according to CBS News. The legally-binding order, announced Tuesday, also requires Norfolk Southern to pay the EPA for all work it performs under the order and to participate in public meetings at the EPA’s request. Former President Donald Trump is set to visit East Palestine Wednesday.
- Winter storm to impact millions: A major winter storm stretching from the west coast to New England will bring a mix of heavy snow, ice, rain and intense winds, NBC News reports. More than 60 million people in 28 states were under weather alerts Tuesday. Summerlike warmth will hit the Southeast and parts of the Midwest at the same time, with over 100 million Americans seeing weather above 70 degrees this week. Parts of Virginia, including Hampton Roads, may see record-breaking warm temperatures Wednesday.