February 27, 2021: Pedestrian struck on West Main during protest; Washington joins Charlottesville City Council race; vaccination update
With the COVID pandemic still affecting our lives, today’s Patreon-fueled shout-out from an anonymous contributor is once again to state clearly:
"We keep each other safe. Wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance."
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On today’s show:
Another Democrat has entered the race for Charlottesville City Council
A pedestrian is struck on West Main Street during a protest
Virginia State Police explode a suspicious device this morning on the Downtown Mall
An update on vaccines and the pandemic
We’ll begin today with a pandemic update. Statewide trends continue to head down with percent positivity statewide at 7.4 percent today. Numbers in the Blue Ridge Health District have also been declining a week after a sudden surge related to the return of University of Virginia students. Yesterday, UVA eased restrictions on in-person gatherings according to a news release sent out yesterday. Students are now allowed to leave their residences for non-academic or non-dining purposes, and people can meet in groups up to six.
“Out of concern for spreading the virus into the surrounding Charlottesville community, the University will continue to limit community volunteering activity until further notice, with one exception,” the release continues.
That exception is UVA students who volunteer on public safety crews who have also been vaccinated.
The fatality count statewide continues to rise as death certificates continue to be entered into the system used by the Virginia Department of Health to track the disease. Nearly 1,200 deaths have been recorded this week for a statewide total now of 8,382. Most of these deaths actually occured in January. In the Blue Ridge Health District, there are now a total of 148 deaths including 57 in Albemarle and 43 in Charlottesville. Over 98 percent of these were people over the age of 50, with 81.1 percent over the age of 70.
In an email update that went out last night, the Blue Ridge Health District announced it will receive the largest shipment of vaccine doses next week. That will allow them to expand vaccinations to people over the age of 65.
“BRHD will receive 4,170 first dose vaccines (both Pfizer and Moderna). Nearly half of these will be distributed to UVA Health to assist with vaccinating Phase 1A and 1B individuals at the Seminole Square location and Community Sites. Additionally, 300 doses will go to the Blue Ridge Medical Center in Nelson and 300 doses will go to Walmart Pharmacies in Greene and Louisa for vaccinating individuals 65+.”
This week, the University of Virginia passed a milestone of administering more than 50,000 doses since December 15. They’re also moving all of their vaccination operations to the temporary facility in the Seminole Square Shopping Center which has been informally dubbed by some as “Big Shots.” Dr. Costi Sifri is leading up the Health System’s community health efforts.
“It is challenging to get here into the medical center,” Dr. Sifri said. “There are a lot of traffic and some challenges with that.”
Yesterday, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel approved emergency authorization for a vaccine from Johnson and Johnson. The time will soon come when anyone who wants a dose can get one. There is some reluctance among many in the population about the safety of a new type of vaccine. Dr. Sifri said hesitancy among some may be waning.
“The vaccine is showing really important efficacy results as were seen in the clinical trials,” Sifri said. “That’s been demonstrated really around the world where they have been rolled out. But in addition they are very well tolerated. People can have some of these side effects but for the most part they’re reasonable and it is too difficult to manage.”
Dr. Sifri said there are some who are reluctant to receive a vaccine and public health professionals need to continue discussions with those who are hesitant in order to allay their fears.
“Vaccination is going to be our best tool to get over this pandemic,” Dr. Sifri said.
Dr. Sifri said UVA would follow the Blue Ridge Health District’s lead on how to continue to support the response to this community health crisis by providing vaccinations.
Another source of information is a Q&A with Dr. Eric Houpt on vaccinations and how the world around us may be slowly changing. Stay informed.
The University of Virginia Health System will begin to allow visitation at some in-patient units beginning on March 2. For a full list, read the update on their website.
Finally in this segment, a friend of mine on social media yesterday posed the question of whether it was a good idea for people to post pictures of themselves getting a vaccine on social media. To hear that conversation, take a listen to the podcast version of this newsletter.
A pedestrian was struck yesterday afternoon at rush hour in the intersection of West Main Street and Roosevelt Brown Boulevard. A press release issued by the city of Charlottesville Police Department later in the evening said the person suffered “minor injuries.”
“As vehicles swerved to avoid confrontations, an uninvolved pedestrian was struck by another vehicle as she attempted to cross the street,” reads the release.
Video footage of the incident released on Twitter by Arianna Coghill is more complicated. As the 45 second video begins, a crowd of people are standing within the intersection as part of a Black Lives Matters protest organized by the group BLM757 that had been moving within the city since 230 p.m. The traffic light controlling vehicles traveling on to Roosevelt Brown Boulevard is green but the group is standing directly in the line of traffic.
At four seconds, the light turns yellow. A person holding a blue sign blocks vehicles seeking to northbound travel from Roosevelt Brown Boulevard onto 10th Street NW.
At almost seven seconds, the light is still yellow. A person in a white jacket can be seen waiting to cross Roosevelt Brown heading west toward the University of Virginia. As soon as the light changes, this person begins crossing the road at a jogging pace. A dark gray pick-up truck crosses the perimeter of the intersection despite the traffic signal being red. This vehicle can be heard revving its engines to accelerate.
At ten seconds, the vehicle strikes the person crossing the street and they fall to the ground. The crowd of people move to assist them. The driver stops and the videographer films the rest of the incident. The driver gets out of his vehicle, and others race to the person to help. The video ends.
The first paragraph of the Police Department’s press release mentions the name of the protest organizer and the fourth states that the Commonwealth’s Attorney office will assist in the investigation.
A question is out for more information about whether the driver will be charged.
This morning, another press release from the Charlottesville Police Department announced a suspicious device was found this morning on 4th Street SE near the Downtown Mall Crossing. The Virginia State Police were called in and the device was detonated.
“CPD’s forensic investigators are processing the scene and have collected relevant evidence, which will be sent to the Virginia Division of Forensic Science for analysis,” reads the release.
(Note - I did not link to the tweet pending identification of the person who took it. I want to make sure they get credit and that I have permission to use it. I can provide the link upon email and will update this newsletter once I have permission)
There are now three Democrats seeking two nominations for two seats on the Charlottesville City Council. Charlottesville Tomorrow reports that Albemarle High School graduate Yasmine Washington is running and Charlotte Rene Woods has a profile on her published Friday. Washington joins school board member Juandiego Wade and 2019 candidate Brian Pinkston in the race. Keep track of campaign finance on the Virginia Public Access Project.
There’s an open seat in a House of Delegates district in the Fredericksburg area. Delegate Mark Cole will not seek reelection to a seat he has held since 2002 according to the Virginia Public Access Project. On his website, Cole announced this would be his last term. For more on this story, read an article in the Fauquier Times.
Thank you for reading. Please drop me a line if you have any questions.