The Triangle News in 5: Staffing shortages persist throughout Hampton Roads as summer tourism heats up

Plus: Williamsburg is ranked the best place to visit in Virginia, ticket quotas will soon be banned in Virginia and NOAA is forecasting a busy hurricane season this year.

Good morning!

After a very pleasant long weekend, we can expect summer-like conditions with temperatures in the 90s through midweek, according to News 3 meteorologist Myles Henderson. Storms – which may be severe – are expected to move in on Thursday and Friday, and the weekend should be cooler and less humid.

If you’re looking for something to do this week, be sure to check out the extensive list of upcoming local events I published on Sunday. I’ve linked to it again at the bottom of the newsletter.

Have comments, questions or ideas for future newsletters? Hit “reply” to this email to get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.

Now to the news.

-Christin

1. Staffing shortages continue to strain businesses as the summer tourism season approaches in Hampton Roads.

  • While it’s been more than two years since the pandemic first arrived in the U.S, many businesses in Hampton Roads are still feeling the pain of staffing shortages, according to The Virginian-Pilot. The concerns have persisted for months but are further intensifying as the summer season begins to usher in tourists.
  • There are a substantial number of unfilled jobs at hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions in Williamsburg and other popular destinations throughout the region. Businesses throughout the Peninsula, particularly those in the service industry, continue to report staffing difficulties. They say the challenges are making it difficult for them to provide high-quality customer service.
    • Mary Ellen Power Rogers, who runs The Cheese Shop in Williamsburg along with her family, said she’s only been able to hire three workers this year – even though she’d hoped to hire 10.
    • Meanwhile, Moody’s Kitchen, also in Williamsburg, has had to shift its business model because of ongoing staffing challenges, the Peninsula Chronicle reports.
      • “Williamsburg had a very tight labor market prior to the pandemic, but today it is so much worse and is playing a significant role in reducing services,” said Chef Neil Griggs, who owns and operates Moody’s.
    • Victoria Cimino, CEO of Williamsburg’s regional tourism arm, Visit Williamsburg, echoed the sentiment. “COVID-19 ushered the tourism industry into a workforce crisis,” she told The Virginian-Pilot. “Today, businesses throughout the region struggle to rehire and fill positions, resulting in a new set of challenges to overcome.”
  • Economists are still trying to determine the primary causes of the ongoing staffing issues in the service industry, given that higher wages have had little effect on the situation and pandemic unemployment benefits ran out long ago, 13NewsNow reports.
    • Peter Shaw, a business administration professor at Tidewater Community College, said he doesn’t see the situation improving before the end of the year. He also said he and other economists believe there’s a 50/50 chance the nation will end up in a recession in 2023.
  • On the brighter side, the situation is, in some ways, better than it was in 2021: Wages have increased compared to last year, and international workers are slowly returning.
    • Additionally, in the Williamsburg area, hotel occupancy rates are exceeding those seen in 2019, according to data provided by Smith Travel Research, a company that analyzes hotel data nationwide.

A counter server prepares cheese wedges at The Cheese Shop in Williamsburg. The popular locally owned and operated shop is gearing up for a busy tourism season, but owner Mary Ellen Powers says she’s only been able to hire three new people this year, even though she was hoping to hire ten. Businesses throughout Hampton Roads are continuing to struggle to find workers, and many say they’re worried about how they’ll be able to handle the influx of visitors and vacationers this summer. (Photo by Jeffrey Greenberg via Getty Images).

2. Williamsburg is ranked the best place to visit in Virginia.

  • Williamsburg was named the “Best Place to Visit in Virginia” in annual rankings released last week by U.S News and World Report. The city was also named one of the “Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA,” according to a news release.
    • “Now you can tread the same steps that our Founding Fathers once took – in fact, in Williamsburg, you just might even find yourself trekking alongside those men (or at least, alongside some talented, costumed interpreters acting out their parts),” the rankings explain.
  • All total, Williamsburg appeared in eight U.S News and World Report annual rankings and received a nod for its affordability as a vacation destination. Colonial Williamsburg was listed as the top spot to visit within Williamsburg. Editors compared it to a “Disney theme park for history fanatics.”
  • The rankings were based upon a review of more than 1,100 destinations throughout the nation. The process involves a comprehensive and transparent methodology that combines travelers’ opinions, as provided by user votes, as well as experts and editor analysis. To view the U.S News Williamsburg travel guide, click here.

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3. Ticket quotas will soon be banned in Virginia.

  • Police and sheriff’s departments will no longer be able to require officers to issue a certain number of tickets or arrests per a new state law taking effect this summer.
    • The legislation prohibits departments from “establishing a formal or informal quota that requires a law-enforcement officer to make a specific number of arrests or issue a specific number of summonses within a designated period of time.”
    • The measure also states that an officer’s job performance cannot be evaluated solely based on the number of arrests or summonses made.
  • It isn’t clear how many departments in the state use a ticket quota system. However, last year, WAVY News obtained a memo – sent by a Virginia State Police supervisor in the Williamsburg area – which urged officers to give out more tickets.
    • The letter read, in part, “4, 5 or 10 tickets for a week of work is unacceptable. There is no reason you should not be writing 5 tickets minimum on a typical day (that’s one every two hours). If you are on free patrol, you should be writing more if you want to remain on free patrol.”
    • A similar memo was leaked to the press last year after it was sent out to officers in the Alexandria Police Department.
  • It’s not yet known exactly how the legislation will impact the number of tickets issued, particularly because many departments rely on ticket revenue. Nonetheless, the bill received widespread bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. The new law will go into effect on July 1.

4. A Planet Fitness Gym is coming to Williamsburg.

  • The new gym will fill the space previously occupied by American Family Fitness in New Town, according to WYDaily. The 26,357-square-foot facility will be locally owned and operated by Williamsburg resident Michael Barnes.
  • Planet Fitness is one of the largest fitness club franchises in the U.S, with more than 2,000 clubs nationwide. The brand focuses on providing budget gym membership options and a “judgement free zone.”
    • “We are planning a late 2022 opening after the completion of a total renovation of the space and while making a significant investment in rebranding this signature location,” Barnes said in a news release.

A Planet Fitness is heading to Williamsburg. (Photo Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images via Getty Images)

5. A JCC supervisor wants to see speed limit changes after a Newport News woman died in a traffic crash on Greensprings Road.

  • James City County supervisor Ruth Larson is calling for the speed limit to be reduced on Greensprings Road after a recent crash claimed the life of a local woman, the Virginia Gazette reports.
  • On May 21, a 2018 Hyundai was involved in an accident with a Volvo at the intersection of Greensprings Road and The Maine. Sharon Russell, 59, of Newport News, was a passenger in the Hyundai. She was transported to Williamsburg Regional Hospital, where she died of her injuries. Three other occupants of the two vehicles were also treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
  • While the crash remains under investigation, Larson says there have been numerous accidents on the road in recent years. She argues that the current 45-mile-per-hour speed limit is too high because the road is heavily wooded, making it difficult to see dark-colored vehicles.
    • “If there is a car that is dark-colored, green-colored, it is very hard to see. It gets very washed out,” Larson said. She added that VDOT has received complaints about the road from numerous neighborhoods.

6. NOAA is forecasting a busy Atlantic hurricane season this year.

  • The 2022 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to yield an above-average number of storms this year, Virginia Mercury reports.
  • A forecast released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last Tuesday says the agency expects to see somewhere between 14 and 21 named storms this year, and three to six of them are likely to develop into major hurricanes reaching a level of Category 3 or above.
  • The projection means this year’s hurricane season could be as active as last year’s, which saw 21 named storms, including four that reached at least a Category 3, with winds of 111 mph or above.
  • FEMA officials say storms are developing more rapidly, meaning there is often less time for state and local officials to warn the public. As such, they’re urging individuals in coastal regions – as well as inland areas – to have an emergency evacuation plan in place.
    • “We are seeing these storms develop faster, they’re developing more frequently, and so it’s giving our state and local emergency managers less time to actually warn the public,” said Deanne Criswell, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
    • More category 4 and 5 hurricanes have made landfall in the U.S over the past five years than in the previous 50 years combined, according to the AP.
  • People can assess their hurricane risk level and develop a preparedness plan by visiting Ready.gov. The FEMA app also provides real-time emergency alerts.

Local Covid-19 Update

New cases: ➕ VDH reports that an additional 22,523 people in Virginia tested positive for Covid-19 last week. That’s up from 22,102 cases that were reported during the previous week. On the Peninsula, the highest numbers of new cases last week were reported in Newport News (+360), Hampton (+266), James City County (+216), and York County (+137), according to WTVR News 6.

Hospitalizations and deaths: An additional 433 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 in Virginia last week (down from 449 the week before), according to VDH data. 38 Covid-19-related deaths also occurred in the state last week (up from 21 the week before), according to VDH.

Vaccination rate: 73.7% of Virginians are fully vaccinated (up from 73.6% last week).

Lowest Gas Prices Today

In the National News

  • Anger and Grief in Uvalde: Residents in Uvalde are grappling with feelings of frustration and anger toward a local law enforcement chief following last week’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, the AP reports. Newly released information reveals that the school district’s well-liked, homegrown police chief ordered his officers not to breach a fourth-grade classroom at the school, despite knowing that the gunman was barricaded inside. Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said last Friday at a news conference that officers waited over an hour to enter the classroom due to safety concerns. Nineteen teachers and two children were killed before the gunman was approached and shot by a U.S Border Patrol tactical team. “People are very angry,” said Maria Gonzalez, a local woman whose children previously attended the school where the shooting occurred.
  • EU Bans Russian Oil: European Union leaders have agreed to expand sanctions against Moscow by banning 90% of oil from Russia by the end of the year, CBS News reports. Meanwhile, Putin’s troops are continuing to advance into the Luhansk region of Ukraine, according to Axios. The Russian military’s latest assault on Severodonetsk – the last remaining major city in the area still under Ukrainian control – has left 1,500 people dead. President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address that more than two-thirds of the city’s homes have been “completely destroyed.”
  • Long Covid Impacts 1 in 5 Adults: A new report published by the CDC found that long Covid is impacting 1 in 5 adults under age 65 and 1 in 4 adults over 65. Long Covid encompasses any of more than two dozen conditions that linger, recur or first appear after a coronavirus infection, such as fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, or new heart conditions or neurological issues. The condition can last weeks, months or years. Additionally, a separate, large-scale study of more than 13 million military veterans published in Nature Magazine last week found that vaccination only reduced the risk of long Covid by about 15%.

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Events This Week

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

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