July 14 - Newcast - 801 new COVID-19 cases, pandemic fatigue, and more

  
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The Virginia Department of Health is reporting another 801 cases of COVID-19 this morning, bringing the cumulative total to 72,443. Nine more deaths have been reported for a total of 1,977. The 7-day percent positive rate for all testing encounters has risen again to 6.8 percent. That’s the third day in a row that metric has increased by a tenth of a percent.  In the Thomas Jefferson Health District, there are 41 new cases reported today for a cumulative total of 1,277. The 7-day positivity rate in the area for all testing encounters is 7.5 percent based on 27,858 tests. 

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It has now been four months since the State of Emergency was declared in Virginia for the COVID-19 pandemic. Mayor Nikuyah Walker and other city officials held a press conference yesterday to reinforce the need for vigilance.

“After a few months spending trying to figure out how we  protect each other, I think we all understand that we at some point have reached a fatigue around this COVID-19 virus. There have been a lot of mixed messages from state, federal and even here at the local level and it’s been a very confusing time to try to figure out how to keep yourself and your family safe.” 

Mayor Walker and other speakers warned that the fatigue can be hazardous as people stop using masks and stop keeping physical distance. Dr. Denise Bonds of the Thomas Jefferson Health District said her agency is responsible for enforcement of directives requiring facial coverings.

“To date we’ve had 180 complaints almost all of them related to individuals not wearing masks in restaurants or shops. Our policy right now is to inform and educate  for the first few times we get a complaint about a particular organization. If the complaint continues and its an agency that we are responsible for regulating, we do have the authority to issue more serious compliance orders with that.

The full video of the press conference can be seen on the city of Charlottesville’s archive and excerpts will be included in the next edition of the Charlottesville Quarantine Report. Governor Ralph Northam will hold his first press COVID-19 conference in several weeks. 

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A University of Virginia media studies professor has published an article in the Guardian about whether American schools are ready to reopen in the fall. Siva Vaidhyanathan writes in a July 13 article that Charlottesville schools are not prepared to reopen, and he writes that the pressure from the federal government to resume in-person classes isn’t helping. Albemarle County plans to open on September 8 with students attending school twice a week in two different cohorts, with schools Friday for a teacher workday and deep cleaning. Charlottesville is considering a plan that would see students in kindergarten through 6th grade attend school days four a week, and older students on the same plan as Albemarle. A growing number of faculty and staff are pushing back on the concept as a number of metrics appears to indicate further caution. (Open letter to Albemarle County schools) (Siva Vaidhyanathan article in the Guardian

In government meetings today, the Charlottesville Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on how to spend nearly an additional $250,000 in federal funding for COVID-19 relief, as well as a rezoning that would allow a car wash located on Long Street to expand onto a nearby property.  The Albemarle County Planning Commission will take consider a request to fill in the flood plain for a stream crossing to enable more homes in Crozet. And the Greene County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on raising water connection fees to help raise funds for a proposed reservoir.