The Triangle News in 5: James City County is named best place to retire in Virginia

Plus: The Lackey Clinic was awarded a grant to expand its Virtual Care program, James City County is offering Covid-19 relief for small businesses and a second Eastern State escapee is now in custody.

Good morning!

After several days of summer-like warmth (without the humidity!), we’ll see highs in the 80s for one more day today, according to WTKR News 3’s Myles Henderson. The second half of the week will be much cooler, though. Showers – with possible strong to severe storms – are expected to move through later today, ushering in a cold front.

It looks like we can expect pleasant weather for the weekend, which is good news for anyone planning to be out and about. If you missed my roundup of local events happening this week, I’ve linked to it again at the bottom of the newsletter.

As always, if you have any questions, comments or ideas for upcoming newsletters, please hit “reply” to get in touch. I’d love to hear from you, and I read every email.

Now to the news.

-Christin

1. James City County was named the #1 best place in Virginia to retire.

  • Stacker compiled a list of the best counties in Virginia to retire in using data provided by data platform Niche.
  • The counties were ranked based on a multitude of factors, including health care, housing costs, weather, crime rates and access to amenities – like restaurants, recreational opportunities, libraries and grocery stores – in an effort to determine how much an area would appeal to a retiree.
    • “Location is critical as retirees determine where to spend their senior years enjoying favorite activities; however, it’s a very unique decision based on a multitude of preferences and needs,” the Stacker article notes. “Whether it be bustling downtowns or access to parks, affordable home prices or cultural amenities like museums, retirees seeking to settle in a permanent spot are sure to find a private paradise in any of these counties recommended by Niche.”
  • While the list features a total of 25 counties, James City County came up on top at #1. The county received an A+ in the “good for retirees” category, an A in the “weather” category, an A- for “outdoor activities” and a C+ for “cost of living.”
    • Some other nearby counties that made the list include Middlesex County (#4), Mathews County (#7), Goochland County (#14), Henrico County (#20) and Hanover County (#22).

People board the Susan Constant for a taste of colonial-era seamanship at Jamestown Settlement. James City County was recently ranked by Stacker as the #1 place to retire in Virginia, partially because of its access to a wide variety of local amenities. (Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images).

2. The Lackey Clinic has been awarded a grant to expand its Virtual Care program.

  • The $105,689 award was provided by Sentara Healthcare and Optima Health, the Lackey Clinic announced in a news release. The funds will be used to cover medical staffing costs for the Clinic’s Virtual Care program and fund a part-time community health worker.
  • The Virtual Care program is designed to offer easier access to medical services, thereby reducing traditional healthcare barriers for medically underserved Virginians. The Clinic offers virtual and in-person care for current patients, as well as virtual urgent care for non-patients, at no cost.
    • The Virtual Care service is geared toward those who need medical treatment for an unforeseen issue but cannot afford the cost of going to an urgent care clinic.
    • Clinic administrators say the service specifically targets those who are not currently patients of the Clinic. In many cases, those individuals later become patients at the Clinic and receive much-needed ongoing care, they say. All regular patients at the Clinic are uninsured and have qualifying incomes.
  • In addition, the newly received funding will make it possible for the Lackey Clinic to connect its patients with other services they may need in the community, like safe housing, healthy food and transportation.
  • The initiative also includes a partnership with Newport News’ community paramedicine program, which offers in-home visits to the Clinic’s patients. The Clinic will also offer virtual urgent care for the Newport News Four Oaks Day Service Center.
    • “We are proud to partner with the Lackey Clinic to ensure our most vulnerable residents, those most at risk of significant health issues, receive the medical care they need,” said Newport News Mayor McKinley L. Price. “Thank you to Sentara Healthcare and Optima Health for investing in this life-saving program, which reduces a barrier to healthcare many regularly face.”
  • In 2021, the Lackey Clinic also received funding from the Williamsburg Community Foundation, which allowed it to enhance its virtual healthcare offerings by providing patients with remote monitoring devices to assess their vitals.

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Thank you to @sentarahealth and @optimahealthplan for awarding us a $105,689 grant, which will enhance our Virtual Care…

3. A new James City County Covid-19 relief fund is offering assistance to small businesses.

  • James City County announced the development of a new Covid-19 Small Business Relief Fund on Friday. The program, made possible by state funding, will aim to provide financial relief for qualifying small businesses impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • A total of $700,000 was provided by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Community Development Block Grant to support the initiative. James City County officials say that while the funds are limited, the County is “pleased to offer financial support to as many businesses as possible.”
  • Qualifying businesses with 20 full-time equivalent employees or less can apply for rent or mortgage payment reimbursement and, in some cases, utility payment reimbursement. Grant requests are limited to no more than 6 consecutive months of payments and cannot exceed a total of $15,000.
  • The eligible expense period is between March 13, 2020 and June 30, 2022. Because the funds are for reimbursement only, the business owner must be able to show documentation proving the payments were made.
  • Grant applications will be reviewed by the county on a first-come, first-served basis, and only complete submissions will be considered. A full list of eligibility requirements and an online application can be viewed here.

4. Homicides are up by 15% in Hampton Roads this year – and local leaders are scrambling to find solutions.

  • The seven largest cities in Hampton Roads reported 62 murders in the first 111 days of 2022 – which amounts to one killing every 1.8 days, the Daily Press reports. The situation has increasingly raised alarm among community groups, religious leaders and city officials, all of whom are working to find ways to combat the seemingly unrelenting slew of violence.
  • Earlier this month, The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission – which usually deals with infrastructure-related matters – switched its focus to crime in a special meeting called by Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck.
    • “Every other evening, there seems to be a shooting,” Tuck said.
  • The statistics paint a picture that isn’t entirely clear cut, however. While homicides are up in the region by 15% compared to this time last year, nonfatal shootings are down by 7%, making it difficult to determine if this year will ultimately prove more violent than 2021.
    • The data also varies by region. While homicides have increased in Norfolk, Chesapeake and Portsmouth, they’re down in Newport News – from 10 year-to-date in 2021 to just 4 year-to-date this year.
    • In Hampton, more than half of all recorded homicides (6 of 11) have occurred during the month of April. Hampton police are also investigating after a 12-year-old girl died from a gunshot wound in the city over the weekend, per 13NewsNow. Neighbors are calling the incident “shocking” and “heartbreaking.”
    • While the lower homicide rate in Newport News seems encouraging, nonfatal shootings in the city are up, from 20 last year at this time to 25 so far this year.
      • Some experts also say the difference between fatal and nonfatal shootings may be a matter of luck. That’s because the shooter’s intent is often the same – regardless of the victim’s ultimate fate.
    • One concerning recent study found that the rate of homicides during the pandemic in Norfolk outpaced that of even the major cities of Detroit and Chicago, according to 13NewsNow. Virginia Beach and Chesapeake were also among the top 50 cities in the nation to experience a spike in crime since 2020, and no other cities in Virginia made the list.
  • Most community leaders say the region’s crime issues need to be addressed at the local level. Nonetheless, the problem of increasing violence is certainly not confined to Hampton Roads.
    • Nationwide, homicides have been rising for the past couple of years. The U.S saw the largest-ever one-year jump in killings in 2020, when homicides spiked nationwide by almost 30%, according to the AP.

5. The second man who escaped from Eastern State Hospital last weekend was arrested in Norfolk.

  • The arrest of the second man to escape Eastern State Hospital – 29-year-old Marcus Wilkerson – was confirmed Thursday by Virginia State Police, WTKR News 3 reports.
    • Wilkerson was described by police last week as “armed and dangerous.” He was found with a concealed firearm and had attempted to provide false information to police by using different names, according to police. Officers say they were able to verify Wilkerson’s actual identity, anyway.
  • Wilkerson, who already has a lengthy rap sheet, was also charged on Thursday with possession of a firearm by a violent felon, providing false information to avoid arrest and concealing a firearm. In addition, he was served with outstanding warrants for failing to appear on grand larceny charges in Chesapeake and violating probation in Virginia Beach.
    • Wilkerson’s previous charges include conspiracy to abduct by force, conspiracy to rob a residence, malicious stabbing and grand larceny. Court records show there were concerns about Wilkerson’s mental health, which could explain why he was being held at Eastern State.
    • Virginia-based legal analyst Ed Booth told 13News Now that Eastern State is now “one of the largest hospitals in the Commonwealth that is utilized for restoring people charged with crimes to a competent state to stand trial.”
  • New information reveals it didn’t take Wilkerson long to figure out how to break out of Eastern State. He had just been admitted to the hospital on April 6, following an April 4 court order.
    • State police say Wilkerson and a second escapee – 31-year-old Austin Preston Leigh – apparently damaged an interior wall at the hospital in order to escape. Leigh was arrested last Sunday evening and is being held at Chesapeake City Jail without bond.
    • Wilkerson was given a public defender Friday and is being held at Norfolk City Jail, also with no bond.
  • The circumstances surrounding the escape have alarmed community residents, many of whom questioned the security of the facility.
  • Governor Glenn Youngkin ordered a security review last week to investigate how the two men escaped the hospital and what must be done to prevent a similar situation from happening again, according to ABC 13 News. Youngkin also called for additional staffing at state facilities for individuals in need of psychiatric support.
    • A spokeswoman from Eastern State said the hospital is also conducting its own internal investigation.

6. The Williamsburg-James City County School Board opted not to purchase ‘divisive’ new textbooks following parental backlash.

  • On Tuesday, the School Board voted 4-3 not to approve the $130,921 purchase of the books after parents voiced opposition to their content during a citizen review period, The Virginia Gazette reports.
    • Some school board members expressed concerns that the books could cause unnecessary division, but others argued in support of the purchase, saying the books – used in Advanced Placement government classes – contain the most up-to-date information.
  • While the proposed books had already been pre-approved by the state education department and were recommended for purchase by W-JCC School Superintendent Olwen Herron, some residents were upset about the book’s perceived political bias.
    • The textbook in question includes discussions about civil and political unrest in the U.S, with photos of police arresting people of color. The cover features a photograph of a protest in Washington D.C, with signs featuring slogans like “Silence is violence” and “No justice no peace.”
    • The school board’s decision means the schools won’t be able to buy new textbooks for another year, and students will have to continue using textbooks that are over a decade old.
  • Chairman Greg Dowell was among the board members to vote against the purchase, citing that while he did not personally object to the book’s overall content, he voted no because he didn’t want to risk driving a wedge between members of the community.
    • “The reason I voted no on that one…was simply because we are transitioning out of a period of discord in our community and our country and that takes all of us,” Dowell said.
  • The other board members who voted against the purchase included Sarah Ortego, Sandra Young and Julie Hummel. Ortego and Young both said the three-week citizen review period was too short and should be expanded.
  • Meanwhile, board member Kyra Cook expressed disappointment with the board’s decision, saying it is unfortunate that children will needlessly have to go through another year without up-to-date textbooks.
    • “I think social and political change is a part of our DNA so, I think it’s appropriate to teach that,” Cook said.
  • The school board’s next meeting will be held on May 3.

Lowest Gas Prices Today

All gas prices shown are per GasBuddy. To check the latest prices based on zip code, click here.

Local Covid-19 Update

New cases: ➕ VDH reports that an additional 6,296 people in Virginia tested positive for Covid-19 last week. That’s down from 8,707 last week. On the Peninsula, the highest numbers of cases were reported in Newport News (+159), Hampton (+91) and York County (+45), according to WTVR.

Hospitalizations and deaths: An additional 207 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 in Virginia last week (down from 699 the week before), according to VDH data. 102 Covid-19 related deaths also occurred in the state last week (down from 199 the week before), according to VDH.

Vaccination rate: 73.1% of Virginians are fully vaccinated (up from 73% last week).

Good News

A woman is grateful to Newport News firefighters after they saved her life while she was having a heart attack.

  • Latonya McBride was driving in Newport News when she began feeling unwell and pulled over, according to WTKR News 3. An off-duty firefighter from Newport News Fire Station 7 first noticed McBride. He immediately got the attention of his coworkers, who rushed to help the woman onto a stretcher and into the medic.
  • When McBride arrived at the hospital, she was quickly operated on. McBride said the doctor told her she likely would have died without the speedy intervention of the group of firefighters.
    • “The doctor that did the surgery, he told me my left artery and right artery was 99 percent blocked. He said if they hadn’t have come out, in 5 minutes, I would have been gone. They put two stents in my heart and here I am like nothing even happened,” she told News 3.
  • McBride stopped by the station to drop off cards for the firefighters and express her gratitude for their efforts.
  • Patrick Primeaux, a Newport News fire lieutenant, told News 3 they rarely have the opportunity to be reunited with people they save.
    • “Not often do we actually get to see people and hear their story after the fact. To hear the story has been really special for us,” Primeaux said.
    • See the full story here.

In the National News

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that there’s a “very significant” risk of World War 3 after accusing NATO of waging a proxy war with Russia, Newsweek reports. “The danger is serious, real. It cannot be underestimated,” he said. The statements follow high-stakes visits to Kyiv by U.S Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who reaffirmed their commitment to providing security assistance to Ukraine. The Kremlin’s rhetoric also comes shortly after the Pentagon denounced a group of Russian state TV panelists who laughed while discussing the prospect of launching a nuclear attack on the U.S. Meanwhile, a new poll shows the majority of both Russians and Americans fear the military capabilities of their former Cold War adversary, believing they pose a “critical threat.”
  • Multiple blasts were felt in Transnistria, a Moldovan separatist region near Ukraine where Russian troops are stationed, according to the AP. The explosions, believed to be from rocket-propelled grenades, hit the Ministry of State Security building Monday. While no injuries were immediately reported, the Moldovan Office of Reintegration Policy attributed the attacks to Russia. In a statement, Moldovan Foreign Ministry said the purpose of the incident was “to create pretexts for straining the security situation in the Transnistrian region.” Analysts have expressed increasing concerns that Putin may try to invade Moldova and take control of Transnistria next.
  • The CDC has issued a warning about unusual cases of severe hepatitis among children, NBC News reports. Health officials are investigating after nine children in Alabama and two in North Carolina were recently treated for severe hepatitis. All of the children were previously healthy, and several became so ill that they needed liver transplants. Dozens of similar cases have also been identified in Europe. “No cause has been found and no common exposures were identified,” said Bailey Pennington, a spokesperson for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Health officials say there does not appear to be any link between the hepatitis cases and Covid-19 or the vaccines.
  • A federal judge has temporarily blocked the Biden administration from rolling back a Trump-era public health measure known as Title 42, according to ABC News. Title 42 invokes a clause of a 1944 public health services law that allows the U.S government to block migrants seeking asylum in an effort to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Events This Week

Miss this week’s community calendar of upcoming events? You can find it here.

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