The Triangle: News in 5 (Jan 3)

Snow in Hampton Roads, W&M's new booster shot mandates, hospital overwhelm in Virginia, Americans' expectations for political violence + more.

Good morning, and Happy New Year!

As if the Monday after a long holiday weekend isn’t challenging enough, those of you commuting today can expect slick conditions on the roads amid the winter weather conditions. Stay safe!

Weather-related closings and delays are also starting to roll in and are continually being updated.

January is one of the quietest months in the Historic Triangle and surrounding region. Nonetheless, there are still some events scheduled for this week, including a Twelfth Night/Epiphany celebration at Colonial Williamsburg, the beginning of “Winter Weekends” at Busch Gardens and more, as you’ll see in this week’s events section.

Now to the news.

Local & Statewide

1. It’s (probably) snow time.

  • It isn’t snowing yet in Hampton Roads, but forecasters say we should expect winter weather today. According to meteorologist Don Slater of WAVY News, the heavy rain will transition into snow for much of Hampton Roads. The Williamsburg area is currently expected to see up to three inches. Newport News and Hampton are expected to receive 1-2 inches, and Richmond could get 4-8.
  • It looks like we can expect slick weather conditions into the evening, too, and state police are urging all local residents to delay travel if at all possible to allow VDOT crews to get to work on the roads. Plows are ready to go and will be out on the roads in the region today, according to 13News Now.
  • “By midday and into the afternoon, snow will likely be a problem on the roads in the Williamsburg area and northward,” Slater said. “Any snow remaining or water remaining on the roads past sunset could re-freeze for the overnight hours.”

2. A man took his own life after a barricade situation in York County Sunday.

  • Police were dispatched to a home in the 100 block of Rocky Road in York County at about 1:23 pm, according to a Facebook post by the York Poquoson Sheriff’s Office. Upon arrival, officers found an armed male barricaded in the home.
  • The man fired numerous shots in the direction of the officers, but no injuries were reported.
  • When the officers were finally able to enter the home around 6:40 pm, however, they discovered that the man had taken his own life. No additional information about the suspect has been released. This is a developing story.

3. William & Mary will require all students and staff to receive a Covid-19 booster shot ahead of the spring semester.

  • Chief Operating Officer Amy Sebring announced Friday that the boosters will be required by no later than Jan. 18. Students who fail to comply will be unenrolled from the spring semester, and employees will be placed on 30-day leave without pay if they don’t get the booster in time, according to The Virginia Gazette. After the 30 day period, employees who still aren’t boosted will be terminated, according to the new policy.
  • W&M is also updating its quarantine policies amid the current surge in Covid-19 cases. Those who have been in close contact with someone who tests positive must report the exposure at reportCOVID.wm.edu. Individuals will then be assigned a case manager and must follow applicable quarantine and testing policies.
  • Students or staff who previously received a religious or medical exemption will not be required to receive the booster but will still need to comply with all testing and quarantine protocols, the university said. Masks will also continue to be required for all students and staff while indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
  • “I know this is not how any of us wanted to start the new year. With that said, COVID-19 remains a part of our lives,” Sebring said in an email sent out to all staff and students.
  • Other universities in the area – including Christopher Newport University, Tidewater Community College and Hampton University – are also announcing the initiation of booster shot requirements or a return to remote learning for the start of the spring semester. See an updated list of those changes here.

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Blue skies, green grass and red bricks – a classic #WrenCrushWednesday

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4. State health officials are urging people to avoid unnecessary ER visits as hospitals become increasingly overwhelmed.

  • Hospitals across the state are experiencing a rapid influx of patients seeking emergency care for Covid-19 infections, according to a joint statement from the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). As Covid prevention measures have loosened compared to 2020, flu cases in the state are also becoming widespread.
  • Urgent care facilities and children’s hospitals in the state are also struggling to meet demand. A representative for KidMed, a pediatric clinic in Richmond, said their urgent care center “has been swamped with up to 150 patients every day, recently,” according to WRIC News. The situation is reportedly causing staff at the facility to quit “in droves.”
  • Healthcare professionals in the state are urging people to take precautions to guard against Covid and other seasonal illnesses, monitor mild to moderate symptoms at home and reserve emergency room or urgent care center visits for extreme symptoms, such as persistent high fever or severe shortness of breath. They also say people should contact their primary care providers regarding non-urgent symptoms.
  • “People working in hospitals are exhausted—nurses, doctors, and everyone. They have worked tirelessly for months to care for people who have gotten sick,” Governor Ralph Northam said in a statement on Dec. 29. “Please go to the hospital only if you believe you really need to.”

Local Covid-19 Update

New cases➕: Covid-19 case data reporting has been delayed this week due to the holidays. However, we do know that Virginia shattered all previous records last week, recording 17,618 new cases on New Year’s Eve – the single biggest increase in Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began.

Officials say the actual numbers are likely significantly higher because it is currently difficult to obtain a test – and results from rapid home tests are often not reported to the health department. The state’s seven-day positivity rate was 21.1% as of Friday, Dec. 31 – up from 11.4% the previous Friday.

Hospitalizations and deaths : VDH reported Friday that an additional 293 deaths occurred in the state last week. As of Sunday, VHHA reported a 7-day moving average of 2,082 cases Sunday, up by 521 patients compared to a week ago.

In Hampton Roads, high case numbers were reported in almost every county last week. Virginia Beach recorded the most cases in the region, with a total of 3,364.

Newport News reported +1,304 cases, James City County recorded +550 cases and +341 cases were reported in York County, according to WTVR News 6.

Good News

Virginia Peninsula Foodbank received a check for $8,000 to start out the new year.

  • The check, which was the result of local food drives – including the Feed the Need drive organized by WTKR News 3 – represents just a third of the total amount raised for the Foodbank.
  • According to the Foodbank’s managers, one in seven people on the Peninsula struggles with food insecurity every day. But every dollar donated allows the Foodbank to purchase four meals for those in need.
  • Karen Joyner, CEO of the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank, said the donations come at a time of high need. “Our food donations are down from some of our grocery partners,” Joyner said. “To have the funds to purchase food is vitally important for us to provide for our community.”
  • Read the full story here.

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Our excellent staff and volunteers braved the weather last week to help us distribute food to our neighbors in Hampton….

National

1. The CDC might change its Covid-19 isolation guidelines… again.

  • Widespread criticism was directed toward the CDC last week when the agency announced it would shorten recommended isolation times for people who test positive from 10 days to five days if they’re asymptomatic.
  • Those guidelines, however, may soon be updated again to require a person to also test negative before they end their isolation period, Axios reports.
  • Public health experts have expressed concern that the shorter isolation times could further worsen the spread because a substantial percentage of people can still transmit the virus after the fifth day. Last week, CDC director Rochelle Walensky told NPR the change in guidance was driven by the need to “keep the critical functions of society open and operating” amid the current surge.
  • “The acceleration of cases that we’ve seen is unprecedented, gone well beyond anything we’ve seen before,” said NIAID director Anthony Fauci on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. But, he added, “Looking at it again, there may be an option in that, that testing could be a part” of updated isolation protocols.

2. Americans are increasingly anticipating outbreaks of political violence.

  • According to a new CBS News-YouGov poll, 62 percent of Americans “think there will be violence” by the losing side in future presidential elections. Only 38 percent believe losing sides will concede peacefully in upcoming elections, Newsweek reports.
  • The poll also found that 25 percent of Americans would support the violence “depend[ing] on the circumstance.”
  • Meanwhile, a Washington Post-University of Maryland survey released Jan. 1 found that 1 in 3 Americans believe violence against the government “can at times be justified.” That’s up from 23 percent in 2015 and just 16 percent in 2010.
  • People’s views regarding what they considered “acceptable” reasons for violence varied, in part based on their party affiliation. The reasons included the oppression of Americans, overreaching Covid-19 restrictions, and the disenfranchisement of minority voters. Many respondents cited concerns about corruption and forms of “tyranny,” according to The Post.
  • “The findings represent the largest share to feel that way since the question has been asked in various polls in more than two decades. They offer a window into the country’s psyche at a tumultuous period in American history,” The Post reported.

Events This Week

Multiple Days

Busch Gardens Winter Weekends – This special winter programming features animal encounters, live music, coasters, rides and millions of sparkling lights at night. 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm.

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.

Wednesday, Jan. 5

Trinity Organ Concert Holiday Edition – Saint Bede Catholic Church. Continue celebrating the Christmas season with this musical event directed by Rebecca Davy, music director and organist at Bruton Parish Church. This event will also feature a livestream option on the “Music of Saint Bede” Facebook page or the parish website.

Make Your Own Dry Erase Calendar – Stryker Center (412 N. Boundary St.) in Williamsburg. Create your own dry erase calendar. All materials will be provided. Registration is required. This event is for ages 13 through adult. 6:30 pm.

Thursday, Jan. 6

Old Christmas is Past – The Hennage Auditorium at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. January 6th has been celebrated as 12th Night, Epiphany, Three Kings Day or Old Christmas in Virginia for centuries. Celebrate the traditional conclusion of the Christmas season with joyous songs and stories by Lynn and Barry Trott. 3:30 – 4:30 pm.

Saturday, Jan. 8

Learning @ The Library – James City County Library (7770 Croaker Rd.) This enrichment program, recommended for elementary and middle school students, features a new topic every first and third Wednesday of the month. This week’s program features Growing Up Wild, a presentation by Virginia Living Museum. Registration is required. 2:00 – 3:00 pm.

Inside James Fort – Historic Jamestown. Daniel Firehawk Abbott of the Nanticoke people will present about the culture and lifeways of the Tidewater Algonquians. Other special programming will also be available on this date. See website for details. Free with admission to Historic Jamestowne. 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.

Sunday, Jan. 9

Beanbag Book Club – James City County Library (7770 Croaker Rd.) in Williamsburg. Designed for beginning readers ages 5-8. This club is limited to 10 participants. Features reading, games and other fun activities based on an early reader book. Pre-registration is required. See website for details. 2:00 – 3:00 pm.

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