Nov 30, 2020 • 7M

November 30, 2020: Staunton reports 206 COVID cases today; Third November homicide in Charlottesville

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Regular updates of what's happening in local and regional government in and around Charlottesville, Virginia from an award-winning journalist with nearly thirty years of experience.
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In today’s installment:
  • Update on COVID-19 in Virginia

  • Woman murdered early Saturday morning is third homicide in Charlottesville in November

  • Popular new trail through mountain brings traffic concerns

  • Owners of historic property nears Batesville seek permit for events

The seven-day average for new daily COVID-19 cases is now 2,400 as new numbers come in from the Virginia Department of Health. On Saturday, a new record of 3,173 cases were reported. On Sunday that number was 2,325 and this morning the VDH reported 1,893 new cases. 

These numbers are based on fewer tests being performed last week, perhaps due to the holiday. The VDH processed 165,268 tests between last Monday and yesterday. The week before the health department processed 222,926 tests. 

The seven-day average for positive PCR tests is at 7.5 percent today. A month ago on Halloween that figure was 5.6 percent. 

In the Blue Ridge Health District, there are another 14 cases reported today, and the seven-day average is 33. For the month of November, there have been 834 cases. That compares to 954 in October, 1,081 in September and 769 in August. There have been 82 fatalities in the Blue Health Rigde District since the pandemic began. 

Looking around the area, the city of Staunton reports 206 cases today, five times higher than their previous high count of 44 cases from Thanksgiving day. For comparison, Waynesboro reported four cases and Augusta County reported eleven cases. 


A 31-year-old Charlottesville woman is dead after being shot early Saturday morning in the 700 block of McIntire Road. Tanya Renee Wheeler is the third person to be murdered in Charlottesville this month. DreShawn McDonald was killed in the 900 block of South First Street on November 5, and a suspect in his murder was taken into custody yesterday in Pennsylvania. On November 14, Teiwan Benstom was murdered in the 700 block of Orangedale Avenue. A suspect was arrested in that case as well. Police are continuing to investigate Wheeler’s murder. 


The opening of the Blue Ridge Tunnel connecting Afton and Waynesboro has been welcomed by many who are looking for a new outdoor destination. However, residents of the Nelson County side have reported traffic issues at the parking lot off of Route 6 as more people find out about the mile-long pathway through the middle of a mountain. 

“The access road to get to the tunnel's parking lot is only wide enough for one car at a time to get in or out, and the visitors coming here have narrowed the road even further by parking on either side of it,” wrote Victoria Dunham over the weekend in a Facebook post warning people of the large crowds. 

Dunham said she supports the tunnel, but asked the head of the private foundation if there had been a traffic study and a plan to handle large crowds. The eastern entrance is recommended for “those seeking a less strenuous experience.” I’ve reached out for comment from the Nelson County Parks and Recreation Department. An email sent to the Blue Ridge Tunnel Foundation refers to the Nelson website for rules and directions

One nearby resident has set up a Facebook group called Stewards of the Blue Ridge Tunnel to help pick up trash at the new facility, which has no other amenities. The organizer said she picked up five and a half pounds of trash on the trail yesterday morning. 

Credit: Victoria Dunham


The owners of a historic property on Plank Road near Batesville are seeking a special use permit to hold events, but under a different section of the zoning code than the one for wineries, cideries and breweries. 

“The Special Events ordinance was developed expressly for hosting events at historic properties for the public to share the enjoyment of the County's historic resources and rural viewsheds,” reads the narrative of the application from Hilmasco Operations, LLC. 

This requires a community meeting which will be held at 5:30 p.m. Several neighbors have already expressed opposition to the project, citing noise and traffic concerns. (meeting info)

The property was originally listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 as Wavertree Hill Farm, but has since been renamed to Bellevue. Under the proposal, weddings and other activities would take place in an existing indoor riding ring which will be remodeled.

“This structure is not a contributing historic structure, was built in the 1970' s, and is visually inconsistent with the other structures on the Property,” reads the narrative. “Though the Applicant would prefer to raze this structure and to construct a more attractive building in the same location, Section 5. 1. 43( d)( 1) requires each structure used for a special event to have been in existence on the date of the adoption of the section.”

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation holds a conservation easement on the property which will not allow new commercial buildings to be constructed. Under the proposal, outdoor amplified music would end at ten p.m. and all events would be over by midnight. The applicant has requested a special exception that four events each year be allowed to have up to 350 guests. The others would be restricted to 150 or fewer. 

In other meetings today, the Crozet Community Advisory Committee meets at seven p.m. tonight.