March 2, 2021: Blue Ridge vaccination update; regional transit vision

  
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On today’s show:

  • A quick COVID update from Dr. Denise Bonds

  • The Virginia Festival of the Book prepares for a virtual event 

  • Albemarle Schools wants input on alternate names for Virginia L. Murray Elementary School 

  • This year will feature a study and input for a Regional Transit Vision Plan


In today’s COVID news, the director of the Blue Ridge Health District briefed Council last night on the latest in efforts to get vaccinations in as many people’s arms as possible. The district has begun to receive additional supply above the 2,850 doses a week it received in February. That has allowed vaccinations of more types of people to begin. 

“We have begun to tackle individuals who work in manufacturing, agriculture and groceries,” said Dr. Denise Bonds. “We have made good inroads into people over the age of 75. We are still vaccinating a large number of people over the age of 65. We have not really been able to start age 16 to 64 with an underlying medical condition, although the vaccine availability is improving significantly and we anticipate being able to open that up shortly.”

Dr. Bonds said work to vaccinate people incarcerated at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail began last week. She also said the district will begin to administer the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which was just approved last week for emergency use and only requires one shot. 

“We have requested 2,000 doses here in the district and we’ll be running what we call large vaccination events,” Bonds said, adding that these will be invitation-only events to help get through the large number of people currently eligible. 

The Virginia Department of Health also issued a press release saying the South African strain has been identified in its Northwest Region. 

Last night, City Council also adopted a proclamation for the Virginia Festival of the Book, which is holding a virtual ceremony for the second year in a row due to the pandemic. Jane Kulow is the festival’s director. 

“We encourage everyone to explore our schedule and find an event that may be of interest,” Kulow said. “We hope that we have found a way to offer some of our best features and make them more accessible than ever.” 

The schedule is available at vabook.org and the two week festival begins on March 13. I’ll have more from that City Council meeting in a future update. 


Albemarle County Schools are seeking input on ten possible names for Virginia L. Murray Elementary School in Ivy, which is named after a pioneer in Black education in the community. In 2018, the school system adopted a policy to review all buildings named after people. Last year, what had been Cale Elementary on Avon Street Extended became Mountain View Elementary last July. 

92 percent of respondents to an online survey posted in January said they would prefer to keep the V.L. Murray name and four people spoke at a February 10 meeting in favor of that outcome and none spoke for another. However, the policy requires the naming committee to submit ten names for the School Board’s consideration, so another survey has been sent around. A final  survey asks people to choose three possible suggestions. The committee will hold a final open meeting on this issue on March 24. (survey)

Last month, the Albemarle Historic Preservation Committee discussed potential historic markers to commemorate Black and Women’s history in the county.  One of three proposals would recognize Murray. 


All localities in the Thomas Jefferson Planning district except Nelson County experienced population growth in the last decade. To reduce the likelihood of traffic congestion, local governments and organizations are seeking ways to improve transit service throughout the community. 

Last week, the Regional Transit Partnership held its first meeting of the year. One of the first actions was to allow a group called the Charlottesville Area Alliance to sit on the body as a non-voting member. Jessica Hersh-Ballering is a transportation planner with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. 

“The Charlottesville Area Alliance was formed in 2016 to lead the advancement of an age-friendly community,” Hersh-Ballering said. “Working with Albemarle and Fluvanna counties and the city of Charlottesville, they successfully applied to be a member of the AARP and World Health Organization’s age-friendly network to bring best practices to our area.” 

This year, work will begin to create a vision for regional transit, as well as a second study to determine how to increase bus service in Albemarle County on U.S. 29 North, Pantops and Monticello. The TJPDC has issued a request for proposals for a technical consultant to do work that is partially paid for through grants from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. 

Hersh-Ballering said study just got under way and the goal is to wrap it up in ten months in order to qualify for a different funding stream. 

“That timeline is really strict because we’re hoping the implementation plan will put a transit provider in the position to apply for a demonstration funding with the next round of funding applications from the DRPT,” Hersh-Ballering said. 

(paragraph below was corrected March 3, 2021)

Currently, Albemarle pays Charlottesville Area Transit for fixed-route service. All but one routes currently terminate at the Downtown Transit Center. 

Hersh-Ballering said the regional transit vision will recommend where different types of transit should be ranging from express, high-frequency local, low-frequency local, and on-demand. 

“The corridor specific service recommendations are intended to be a visual document like a map that uses the initial work product to determine what type of transit service can be best supported on each corridor in the region,” Hersh-Ballering said. “If that sounds really familiar, that’s because that’s very similar to what Richmond did in their vision plan.”

The Richmond plan was endorsed by the Richmond Regional Transportation Planning Organization in April 2017. 

The RTP also heard details about potential changes to Charlottesville Area Transit routes. Read a story by Allison Wrabel in the Daily Progress


Finally today, Charlottesville City Hall will be closed tomorrow to commemorate Liberation and Freedom Day. There are all sorts of events going on this week to celebrate the occasion, which was designated as a city holiday on July 1, 2019. The day marks when Union Major General Phillip Sheridan and his troops arrived in Charlottesville liberating over 14,000 enslaved people.  The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center has a whole series of events this week. Visit their website to learn more