The Triangle: News in 5 (Dec 6)

A barricade situation in Williamsburg, CW employees' rally for better working conditions, the race to detect omicron, rising tensions between the U.S and Russia + more.

Good morning, Historic Triangle!

We’re now heading into the first full week of December, and as was the case last week, there will be plenty of holiday-related activities happening in the area (many of which are free or low cost). Be sure to check out the lengthy events section at the end of the newsletter for more details.

Today will be unusually warm, but we can expect a drastic temperature shift back down into the 40s tomorrow, with slightly warmer weather coming later in the week.

There’s a lot to get to – from a barricade situation last night in Williamsburg to efforts to detect omicron in Virginia to mounting tensions between the U.S and Russia – but The Triangle is breaking it all down into a quick, 5-minute read.

If you haven’t done so already, please be sure to subscribe to The Triangle so you don’t miss any newsletters.

Let’s get started.

Local & Statewide

1. A man is in custody after a ten-hour-long barricade situation in Williamsburg.

  • The incident began around 1:41 pm on Sunday after police were sent out for a welfare check on a man in the 100 block of Wellington Drive, according to the York Poquoson Police Department. When officers approached the home, the man, who has not yet been identified, barricaded himself and was armed.
  • Police asked all neighbors to stay in their homes. Emergency response personnel quickly descended upon the area and worked to evacuate nearby residences while maintaining communication with the man in the home.
  • The situation continued late into the night until the man finally exited the residence shortly before midnight. He was then taken into custody, but it is unclear if he will face charges. WAVY News reports that there were no injuries.

There was a heavy police presence at the BP gas station near Wellington Drive amid the barricade situation on Sunday. (The Triangle).

2. Colonial Williamsburg hospitality workers rallied Saturday for higher pay and better working conditions.

  • The rally was held during the kickoff of Grand Illumination, which is historically one of Colonial Williamsburg’s biggest events of the year. One hundred employees who work for CW’s hotels and restaurants gathered together on the corner of S. England Street and Newport Avenue to call for better working conditions, higher pay and more time off. They’re represented by the UNITE HERE Local 25 worker union.
  • “By being here today, what you are saying is you will no longer submit to unfair conditions and the injustices that exist in your workplace now,” said John Boardman, the union’s executive secretary-treasurer. “Hope does not bring change; action does.”
  • Employees say they’ve been working six days per week with few breaks due to staffing shortages, The Virginia Gazette reports. They also say they’ve not received a raise in over three years in spite of working through the pandemic, according to WYDaily.
  • News 3 reports that the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation presented the employees with an offer that would increase pay by 23.5% for the lowest-paid workers. Effective Dec. 5, 2021, all non-tipped employees would receive a minimum of $15.50 per hour or an increase of $2.95 per hour, whichever is higher. Additional raises would also be scheduled for July 2022, January 2023, and July 2023, 2024 and 2025.
  • Tipped employees would also receive a minimum of $7.37 per hour or $1.00 extra per hour, whichever is greater. Additional pay increases and bonuses were also offered for non-tipped employees.
  • The Foundation told News 3 that they have been unable to come to an agreement with the workers because their proposed changes would currently allow union reps from Washington D.C to interrupt workers during their scheduled hours and would do away with temporary employee overtime. Nonetheless, the Foundation says they have no intention of laying off any employees as a result of the negotiations.

3. The WJCC School Board wants to build another elementary school, but the James City County Board of Supervisors doesn’t support the plan.

  • The School Board contends that the county’s schools are overcrowded and the only solution is to build a new elementary school with room for pre-K students. According to The Virginia Gazette, that would cost about $40 million.
  • The Williamsburg City Council supports the plan. But the JCC Board of Supervisors – which funds 90% of the division’s operating budget – wants to see the school build separate add-on wings for pre-K students instead. That would only cost about $26 million.
  • While all parties involved agree that a new elementary school will eventually need to be built, they can’t come to terms on a timeline. The Board of Supervisors believes a new school won’t be necessary for seven to ten years, while the School Board says construction on a new building should’ve already begun years ago and needs to happen ASAP.
  • “In communities that are growing, with redistricting, some students are moving every year,” said Supervisor Ruth Larson, who argues the latest census data may not present an accurate picture of the situation.
  • Williamsburg Mayor Doug Pons, however, sided with the School Board, saying the plan to spend $26 million now to add on to an existing school doesn’t make any sense because a new building will inevitably need to be built anyway.

4. State health officials are ramping up efforts to detect potential cases of the omicron variant in Virginia.

  • Health experts in the Commonwealth believe it’s likely inevitable that the omicron variant will arrive in Virginia. In an effort to identify potential cases of the strain as quickly as possible, pathologists are now sequencing millions of positive tests, WTOP News reports.
  • The state’s lab says it currently isn’t sequencing enough samples of Covid-19 to effectively pick up new variants, including omicron. According to Virginia Mercury, Virginia – like many other states – still has limited capacity when it comes to scanning positive tests, and has only sequenced about 2.7 percent of all cases thus far, mostly because of budgetary restrictions.
  • The state’s lab is now asking hospitals and commercial labs to send at least half of their positive samples to the state’s laboratory network in an effort to detect the omicron variant as soon as possible if it arrives in Virginia.
  • “Once again, we see how unpredictable viruses can be. Viruses change and mutate all the time, and as we learn more about this new variant, we need to continue taking precautions to reduce infections,” State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver said in a news release.

National

1. Tensions are mounting between Russia and the U.S as Russia plans to build up troops along the Ukrainian border.

  • Newly released intelligence findings show that the Russians are planning to deploy 175,000 troops to the Ukrainian border – and more than half of those troops are already there, according to the AP. The findings also indicate that Russia’s Vladimir Putin may be planning a military offensive beginning as soon as early 2022. Meanwhile, Ukraine says it’s prepared to fight back.
  • On Friday, President Biden pledged to do everything possible to block Russia from taking action against Ukraine. “What I am doing is putting together what I believe to be will be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do,” Biden told reporters.
  • Meanwhile, the Russian embassy in Washington lashed out at U.S officials and NATO states for raising alarm over the potential Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Russia is not a threat to any country,” the embassy said in a Tweet. “The deployment of troops on the national territory is our sovereign right and no one’s business.”
  • Biden is set to speak with Putin via video call Tuesday amid the escalating situation, Newsweek reports.

2. Omicron cases are “likely to rise” in the U.S, but Delta is still the dominant strain as the U.S averages over 100,000 daily cases.

  • Scientists continue to express concern about the new omicron variant. On Sunday, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told ABC’s This Week that cases in the U.S are “likely to rise.” The statement comes amid reports that the variant may have the capacity to evade protection from existing vaccines or cause re-infections more easily.
  • However, experts say it’s still too soon to tell how much of a threat the new variant will be, and details about the severity of the strain are still unclear. While Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s top medical advisor, told CNN Sunday that early reports appear encouraging, he and other experts also cautioned that more data is necessary before any determinations can be made.
  • “I think the severity question will be one of the last bits that we’ll be able to untangle,” Müge Çevik, an infectious disease specialist at the University of St. Andrews, UK, told Nature, a peer-reviewed scientific journal. “That’s how it happened with Delta.”
  • Meanwhile, the virulent Delta variant is continuing to grip the U.S. For the first time in two months, U.S cases are topping 100,000 per day, with the seven-day average on Sunday surpassing 118,000 new cases.

Local Covid-19 Update

Community transmission in Virginia is currently high, according to the CDC Covid-19 data tracker.

New cases ️: There were 12,860 additional cases of Covid-19 reported in Virginia in the past week, bringing the state’s total case count to 976,599, according to VDH.

In Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach saw the highest increases in cases last week (+478). Newport News, Hampton and James City County also each reported over 100 new cases in the past week (139 in Newport News, 116 in Hampton and 110 in James City County).

Hospitalizations and deaths : There are currently 1,080 Virginians in the hospital with Covid-19 (up by 316 from last week). The total number of deaths has reached 14,753 (up by 118 from last week).

School update : According to the WJCC School Covid-19 dashboard, 26 students in the district are currently in isolation after testing positive, while 3 staff are positive in isolation. An additional 103 students are in quarantine, while 1 staff member is in quarantine. YCSD reports that there are 25 active positive cases currently. The district does not report quarantine data.

Good News

Free Christmas trees were given to 150 military families in Virginia Beach over the weekend.

  • The 14th Annual Trees for Troops initiative was held at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach on Saturday. Volunteers from Morale Wellness and Recreation Center and other organizations gave out the trees – provided by Christmas Spirit Foundation and FedExed from Maine – for free. The goal was to ensure “every military child has a tree to stand over their presents Christmas morning,” News 3 reports.
  • “You can’t help but feel happy when you start seeing families coming in, getting a tree and in this time of Covid, in this time of need, it’s really hard for them,” Karen Williams with Morale Wellness and Recreation Center told News 3. “I think we were put on this planet to help one another and so if I can make someone smile… a soldier, a Marine, a Sailor, this is all worth it.”
  • The Trees for Troops program, founded in 2005, has impacted the lives of more than 243,000 military families stationed at 70 bases across the U.S and overseas.

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A common question we get is ‘Why do the Christmas tree farms and lots get involved in Trees for Troops?’.
For many…

Events this Week

Multiple Days

The Nutcracker – Friday, Dec. 10 and Saturday, Dec. 11 at 7:00 pm. Crosswalk Church in Norge. Presented by SI Dance. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased here. See The Triangle‘s full article on this event here.

Williamsburg Christmas Market – Held at the parking lot at the corner of S. Boundary & Francis St. across from Berrets Seafood Restaurant. Thursday, Dec. 2 – Sunday, Dec. 5. Outdoor European market featuring over 60 vendors, live holiday music, treats from The Bake Shop and Culture Cafe, fire pits, a visit from Santa and more. Free.

Talk of the Town: Christmastide Tour – Daily through Jan. 1, 2022 at 10:00 am – Colonial Williamsburg. Featuring a guided tour throughout Colonial Williamsburg with an emphasis on the spirit of the Christmastide season. Tickets + Good Neighbor Pass or CW Admission required. See website for details.

Christmas Decorations Walking Tour. Colonial Williamsburg. Featuring a guided tour of Colonial Williamsburg’s buildings and streets, beautifully decorated for the holidays. Selects days at 10:30 am; see website for details. Tickets $15.

Photos with Santa – Daily through Dec. 23 from 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm at the Memorie Group Real Estate Office, 439 Prince George St. in Williamsburg. Photos with Santa can be taken with children, families or pets. Pre-registration is required; only 1-2 families will be allowed in the studio at a time due to Covid-19 precautions. Proceeds benefit Heritage Humane Society. $50. Digital copies of photos are included. Pre-register here.

Ice Skating at Liberty Ice Pavilion – Colonial Williamsburg. Daily through Feb. 27, 2022. Features ice-skating and a concession stand that sells hot chocolate, hot cider and other treats. See the full ice rink schedule here.

Busch Gardens Christmas Town – Williamsburg. Daily through Jan. 2, 2022. Hours and ticket prices vary; see website for details.

Celebration in Lights – Newport News Park. Features over a million lights displayed throughout a two mile stretch amongst the woods in the park. New this year are magical trees, candy-themed displays and more. 5:30-10:00 pm nightly through New Year’s Day. $12 per car Monday-Thursday; $15 per car Friday-Sunday.

The Magic of Christmas – The Hennage Auditorium at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. Wednesdays, Dec. 8, 15, 22, and 29 at 7:00 pm. Exciting new show featuring a stage magician, William the Conjuror, and a live band of strings, brass, reeds and drums playing the sounds of the season. Program tickets ($20 for adults, $15 for children) required in addition to Good Neighbor Pass or CW admission.

Christmas Trees and Museum Treasures – Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. Wednesdays, Dec. 1, 8, 22, 29 from 6:00 – 9:00 pm. This new program features a Trail of Trees with themed trees and an illustrated guide to hunt for art objects related to the Twelve Days of Christmas. A 16-foot Folk Art Tree decorated with more than 2,000 handcrafted ornaments is also featured in the museum, and holiday cookies and hot cocoa are available for sale in the Museum Cafe. Free with Good Neighbor Pass or CW admission.

Annual Colonial Williamsburg Holiday Pie & Bake Sale – Taste Studio next to the Williamsburg Inn. Thursday – Sunday, Dec. 9-12; Thursday-Sunday, Dec. 16-19 and Monday-Thursday, Dec. 20-23. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm daily.

Joy in the Morning – Art Museum of Colonial Williamsburg. Fridays, Dec. 3, 10, 17 and 31 at 11:00 am. Features a musical message of hope that illuminates the triumphs and struggles faced by African Americans in the 18th century. $5 program ticket required along with a Good Neighbor pass or CW admission.

Santa Visits New Town – New Town Williamsburg. Santa will be outside by the kiosk near the Brass Tap. Snap your own photos.

Virginia Living Museum Nature Nights Holiday Lights – Virginia Living Museum in Newport News. Thursday – Sunday Nights through Dec. 30. 5:30 – 8:30 pm. Featuring an outdoor trail adorned with lights and the holiday spirit. $9 for VLM members, $12 for non-members; free for children 2 and under.

Tuesday, Dec. 7

Eating for Your Best Life – James City County Recreation Center in Williamsburg. 6:30 – 7:30 pm. Registered Dietician Stephanie May shares information about the foods that can help carve out a long, healthy and joyful life. Ages 12+. Free.

Wednesday, Dec. 8

Rum & Holiday Tales – The Hennage Auditorium at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. 3:00 pm. Master storytellers share tales of the 18th century Highlanders. $5 program ticket in addition to Good Neighbor Pass or CW admission.

Friday, Dec. 10

A Celebration of the Yule Log – Capitol Building in Colonial Williamsburg. 6:00-8:00 pm. The Yule log will be hauled by a wagon to Market Square accompanied music and 18th-century festivities. Free and open to the public.

Sensory Movie Night: The Polar Express – James City County Library (7770 Croaker Rd in Williamsburg). The Polar Express will be played in a sensory-friendly environment. Popcorn and hot chocolate will be available. Geared toward those with special needs or young children, but all are welcome.

Lights at the Fountain – City Center at Oyster Point in Newport News. Nightly from 5:00-9:00 pm through Jan 1. Features a holiday experience showcasing lights, decorations and snow falling set to music. Free admission; free parking.

ARTechLights – Brooks Crossing in Newport News. Nightly from 5:00-9:00 pm through Jan. 1. Features an animated light and sound show on the holiday tree every half hour with synchronized music and holiday decor.

Saturday, Dec. 11

6th Annual Stuff the Trailer Toy Drive – Williamsburg Christmas Market, P6 Parking Lot. 11:00 am – 3:00 pm. Volunteers will collect unwrapped toys and donations for local families in need. Organized by the City of Williamsburg’s Police and Human Services Department. Families in need of toys for Christmas can contact the Human Services Department at (757) 220-6161.

Mistletoe Market and Toyland Parade – Riverwalk Landing in Yorktown. 9:00 am – 3:00 pm (parade at 1:30 pm). Free.

Christmas Walking Tour of Historic Yorktown – Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters. Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Stroll through the village or Yorktown and hear tales of the Christmas season from the pre-Colonial era to today. Guided by a professional historian. $10; children 12 and under are free.

3rd Annual New Town Holiday Market – Theatre Square around the Fountain in New Town (4911 Courthouse St. in Williamsburg). Saturday, Dec. 11. 10:00 am – 3:00 pm. Features crafters, artists, holiday gifts, baked goods and more.

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You won’t want to miss the Lighted Boat Parade on the York River this Saturday night! Head down early to grab dinner …

Have questions, comments or suggestions? I’d love to hear from you. Please email me at [email protected]

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