The Triangle: News in 5 (Jan 31)

A first-ever Winter Carnival in Newport News, concerning findings in the I-95 winter storm traffic debacle, changes to vaccine mandates at state colleges, an upcoming U.N meeting on Russia + more.

Good morning!

We’ve made it through yet another weekend impacted by snow and frigid temperatures, but this week, we can look forward to more sunshine and some warmer weather. We’ll get an especially nice break from the winter chill on Thursday, when highs are expected to reach up into the 60s.

There’s been a significant increase in subscribers to this newsletter in the past week, so to those of you who are new, welcome! I’m glad you’re here. You can expect to receive a mix of bullet-point-style news updates (like this one) along with local event listings and some deeper dive news and feature stories.

I’d love to know: What topics are you most interested in reading about? Please reach out to me directly via email at [email protected]. I’m also always open to general comments, feedback and suggestions.

As usual, there’s a lot happening, but The Triangle is breaking the top stories down into a quick, 5-minute read.

Now to the news.

-Christin

Local & Statewide

1. The City of Newport News is hosting its first-ever Winter Carnival this week.

  • The three-day event will take place at the former Kmart site at 401 Oriana Road in Denbigh starting Friday, February 4. The highlight will be a free outdoor skating rink, which will also include free skate rentals, according to the City.
  • Other activities will also be available on Saturday, including carnival games, food vendors, children’s crafts, a photo booth and inflatables. Admission, games and activities will also all be free.
  • The hours of operation will be Friday (4-8 pm) and Saturday and Sunday (12 – 5 pm). Additional details and event updates will be available on the Newport News Special Events Facebook page.

2. The woman charged in a fatal stabbing at Walgreens in Williamsburg has been found incompetent to stand trial.

  • LaTeisha Meekins, 35, was charged with stabbing and killing a 71-year old James City County woman outside of Walgreens on Richmond Road on November 12, 2021.
  • After police arrived at the scene, the victim, Catherine Patricia Heaston, was transported to the hospital, according to WAVY News. Heaston later died from her injuries. Witnesses told police the two women arrived separately and spoke briefly before the incident occurred.
  • On Thursday, Meekins – who faces second-degree murder charges – appeared before a judge. The court ruled she was not competent to stand trial and ordered her to receive inpatient treatment. The next hearing in the case is set for July 28, 2022.

3. Gloucester County’s Daffodil Festival is set to return in April 2022.

  • The festival, which was canceled for the past two years, will return on Saturday, April 2, WYDaily reports. This will be the 36th year of the event.
  • Applications are currently being accepted for food vendors as well as for artistic, handcraft and nonprofit vendors. Parade float entries and Daffodil Festival Scholarship applications will be available after February 1. Vendor applications must be received before February 11, 2022, to avoid incurring a late fee.
  • For more information and event updates, visit the Gloucester Daffodil Festival website.

4. An investigation into the snowstorm-fueled traffic disaster on I-95 found holes in Virginia’s emergency response protocols.

  • Three weeks after hundreds of travelers were stuck for up to 36 hours on I-95 during a snowstorm, a private company has been hired to investigate the incident, according to The Washington Post.
    • The 50-mile backup fiasco took place on a stretch of the busiest highway on the East Coast heading toward Washington D.C. Long-haul truckers, commuters and even Senator Tim Kaine were left stranded overnight in frigid temperatures as their vehicles began to run out of fuel.
    • The official review of the situation is ongoing and will include an analysis of the response carried out by VDOT, the State Police and the Department of Emergency Management.
  • Meanwhile, an independent investigation launched by The Post revealed that “internal miscommunications, botched public messaging and holes in the state’s emergency response” all contributed to the situation. The findings call into question Virginia’s preparedness for future disasters.
    • The analysis also found that VDOT didn’t sound an alarm early enough about the storm. Experts also told The Post that food, water, medical aid and gasoline should have been widely distributed to motorists within eight hours; however, emergency officials said they were not aware that help was needed.
  • “There’s so much traffic and we’re just stuck here,” one stranded caller told 9-11. “The conditions are bad.”

STAFFORD COUNTY, VIRGINIA – JANUARY 04: In an aerial view, traffic creeps along Virginia Highway 1 after being diverted away from I-95 after it was closed due to a winter storm on January 04, 2022, near Fredericksburg in Stafford County, Virginia. A winter storm with record snowfall slammed into the Mid-Atlantic states, stranding thousands of motorists overnight on 50 miles of I-95 in Virginia. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

5. State colleges and universities can’t require students to get Covid-19 vaccines or boosters, according to AG Jason Miyares.

  • The decision stands in direct opposition to former Attorney General Mark Herring’s opinion on the matter, the Richmond-Times Dispatch reports.
    • In a legal opinion requested by the governor, Miyares wrote that “public institutions of higher education in Virginia may not require vaccination against Covid-19 as a general condition of students’ enrollment or in-person attendance.
  • The immediate impact of the opinion is unclear, as many colleges have had vaccine mandates in place since the shots became widely available. While Miyares’ opinion is nonbinding, his office is also relied upon by universities for legal guidance.
    • After the original mandates went into effect last year, UVA, William & Mary and Virginia Tech removed students who did not comply with the mandate or provide a medical or religious exemption. VCU removed students who did not agree to be either vaccinated or undergo regular testing.
    • Some of the colleges, including W&M, also began requiring students and staff to be boosted if eligible, but that decision was rescinded two weeks ago when Gov. Youngkin issued an executive order ending vaccine mandates for state employees and state college workers.
    • While most of the impacted colleges have not yet announced their response to Miyares’ conclusion, a VCU spokesperson said the university is “reviewing the opinion to determine how it affects VCU students, particularly those students in hospital and clinical settings.” A spokesperson from William & Mary also reportedly told 13NewsNow that the college is “analyzing the opinion.”

National

1. The U.N Security Council will meet Monday at the request of the United States.

  • The Council will convene for the first time to discuss Russia’s troop buildup near the Ukrainian border. The AP reports that “all key players are expected to square off in public over the possibility of a Russian invasion and its global impact.”
    • While announcing the meeting, U.S Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield emphasized that Russia’s actions pose a threat to international peace and security.
  • Russia’s deputy U.N ambassador Dmitry Polyansky expressed anger over the meeting, calling it a “PR stunt shameful for the reputation of UN Security Council.” The remarks suggested Russia may attempt to invoke a procedure to block the meeting. Meanwhile, China’s U.N ambassador stated Beijing is siding with Moscow in opposing the meeting.
  • “We’re going into the room prepared to listen to them, but we’re not going to be distracted by their propaganda,” said Thomas-Greenfield of the meeting on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
  • Throughout the week, U.S diplomats have expressed the belief that a Russian attack on Ukraine appears imminent. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, however, pushed back on that claim, warning that such language is contributing to economic instability in his nation.

2. A major snow and ice storm is expected to impact a 2,000-mile swath of the nation this week.

  • Meteorologists are projecting that the storm – dubbed Winter Storm Landon – will have significant impacts on a large part of the country, spanning from the southern Rockies all the way to parts of the Northeast. The weather event is expected to begin on Groundhog Day and is anticipated to cause widespread travel problems.
  • Winter storm watches have already been issued in some areas of the storm’s path, from Kansas to Michigan, The Weather Channel reports. Snow, sleet and freezing rain may be felt as far south as central Texas.
  • While the exact path of the storm is unknown, the Mid-Atlantic region is currently expected to get mostly rain from this storm.

Other headlines in the nation:

Local Covid-19 Update

Community transmission in the Historic Triangle and all of Hampton Roads is currently high, according to the CDC Covid-19 data tracker.

New cases: ➕ While Virginia continues to experience high rates of Covid-19 cases, the number of new cases are down by about 25% from last week.

VDH reported 73,878 new cases Friday, down from 100,296 new cases the week before. The state’s current daily positivity rate is 28.3, which is down slightly from last week (28.7%).

On the Peninsula this past week, Newport News recorded +1,159 cases, Hampton logged +850 cases, James City County reported +693 cases and York County had +365 cases, according to WTVR.

Hospitalizations and deaths: Statewide, there are a total of 2,949 patients in the hospital with Covid-19 (+640 from last week), according to VHHA data.

525 of those patients are in the ICU, and 339 are on ventilators. An additional 275 deaths were also reported last week, according to VDH.

Vaccination rate: 68.8% of Virginians are fully vaccinated (up from 68.6% last week).

Good News

A group of seven friends from Hampton Roads has won the largest-ever Virginia Lottery game prize.

  • The friends – called the “Magnificent Seven” by the Virginia Lottery – pooled their money together to play the game. They ultimately won the January 20 drawing, which had grown to a record $1,008,842, according to WTKR News 3.
  • The winning ticket was purchased from the Food Lion in the Great Neck Village Shopping Center in Virginia Beach. The store also received a $10,000 bonus for selling the winning ticket.
  • “There was no sleeping last night!” said winner Ryan Nguyen the day after learning he and his friends had hit the jackpot. If split evenly, each friend will take away over $144,000.

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Events this Week

Multiple Days

Teach Them Diligently – The Hennage Auditorium at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. Meet lifelong Colonial Virginia teacher Ann Wager as she teaches at the Williamsburg Bray School, the first school in Virginia for African American children. Learn how the experience changes Ann’s perspective on slavery and education in the Colonial era. Sundays, Feb. 6, 13, and 20 at 1:30 pm. Included with museum admission or Good Neighbor pass.

Afterschool Crafts – James City County Library. Monday – Thursday, 4:00-7:00 pm; Friday, 4:00-6:00 pm. This drop-in event features new crafts every week.

WRL Youth Art Show – Middle and high school students in James City County, York County and the City of Williamsburg are invited to submit hangable, original artwork to be included in the Williamsburg Regional Library Youth Art Show. The show will take place between March 6 – March 31, and all submissions must be received by February 25.

Black History Month at the Virginia Living Museum – VLM will be offering special activities relating to African American scientists all month long. During the week of February 1-7, the focus will be on Dr. Earyn McGee, a herpatologist who is currently researching lizards in the Chiricahua Mountains. She also created a viral social media game, #FindThatLizard. Find her via her Twitter handle at @afro_herper.

Hearts for Homeless Pets – Now through Valentine’s Day, Heritage Humane is running a Hearts for Homeless Pets campaign. Customize a paper heart with a pet lover’s name, pet name or special message for $10 per heart. Each heart will be displayed in the adoption center front lobby throughout the month of February.

“Snow Many Books” Reading Challenge – Virtual. Williamsburg Regional Library is running a reading challenge for kids throughout the month of February. Participants can log on to wrl.beanstack.org all month long to log their reading progress, complete activities and ultimately earn 3-D pieces to build a snowman.

Black History Month Reading Challenge – Newport News Public Library (Virtual). Participants who spend 420 minutes reading books written by or about African Americans will receive a completion badge and a prize.

Busch Gardens Mardi Gras – Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. Jan. 28 – Feb. 27. Features jazzy live music, Mardi Gras-inspired food, colorful entertainment and more. Suitable for guests of all ages. Fridays, 3:00 – 8:00 pm and Saturdays and Sundays, 12:00 – 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.

Newport News Winter Carnival – Friday, Feb. 4 – Saturday, Feb 6. Features a free weekend skating rink (with free skate rentals) and a special event on Saturday with carnival games, food vendors, children’s crafts and more. Activities and admission are free.

Wednesday, Feb. 2

Groundhog Day at Virginia Living Museum – Virtual. Join the museum remotely to celebrate Chesapeake Chuck and find out if he predicts six months of weeks of winter or an early spring. This event will be streamed live on VLM’s Facebook page.

Thursday, Feb. 3

The Shoeless Showdown – Kaplan Arena at William & Mary. Donate a new pair of children’s shoes to benefit children in need and receive free entrance to see the William & Mary vs. Charleston Cougars game. A free Chick-fil-A sandwich coupon will also be provided to all who donate. 7:00 pm.

Saturday, Feb. 5

Toano Icy 8k Walk/Run, Frosty 5k and 1 Mile Fun Run: This Colonial Road Runners Grand Prix Event will benefit Toano Middle School’s PTSA Mini-Grant program. Advance tickets range from $15-$30 depending on the running or walking event selected. See website for specific event times and other details. 9:30 am -12:00 pm.

History Hike: Water Street and Tobacco Road – Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters. Explore Yorktown’s history during this walking tour guided by professional historians. Learn about the establishment of the tobacco port, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and more. 11:00 am – 12:00 pm. Tickets are $10, free for children 12 and under.

Sunday, Feb. 6

History Hike: The Marl Pit – Yorktown Battlefield Visitors Center. Learn about Yorktown’s prehistoric past, including how fossilized seashells led to Virginia’s agricultural rebirth in the 19th century. Participants must be able to hike on uneven terrain with one moderately difficult hill. 1:00 – 2:00 pm. Tickets are $10.

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