October 14, 2020: Contact-tracing of Northam discussed; voter registration deadline extended

  
0:00
-8:29

Today we have a new Patreon-powered shout-out. The Local Energy Alliance Program wants you to consider a Home Energy Check-Up as the first step toward lowering your energy bills. For a $45 consultation, Albemarle and Charlottesville residents can have their homes audited to see what can be done to reduce energy consumption. Sign up today!

*

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has given his first press conference since he and his wife were diagnosed with COVID-19.

“We know that we have been very fortunate that our experience with this disease was mild,” Northam said. “Many other people have not been so lucky and our hearts continue to be with those who have lost loved ones.” 

As of this morning, there have been 3,381 COVID-19-related deaths in Virginia and over 200,000 nationwide. 

Northam said that none of his close contacts have been diagnosed with the disease. He attributed this to mask wearing and spoke to the importance of contact tracing. Dr. Danny Avula is the director of the Richmond City and Henrico County Health Districts. 

“The role of the local health department in every new case of COVID that we have, we follow up that case and we identify when was their onset of symptoms or when was the date of their positive test,” Avula said. 

Contact-tracers then interview the person to try to identify who they were around. 

“And we determine who actually met the definition of a close contact, so having spent 15 minutes or greater within six feet of somebody is the epidemiological definition of a close contact,” Avula said. 

Anyone who meets that definition is now considered to be exposed and they are asked to go into quarantine for 14 days. That’s the period when the virus can incubate in a person’s body. Avula said tracers tracked down 65 individuals across seven health districts who met the definition. None tested positive. 

*

This morning, the Virginia Department of Health reports another 805 cases today, and reported 1,235 yesterday. The numbers of yesterday were made available later than usual due to a communications problem we’ll discuss more in a moment. The statewide seven-day average of positive tests increased to 4.6 percent. 

There have been 38 cases reported in the Blue Ridge Health District since Monday, with 19 new cases both today and yesterday. A recent spike in new cases has appeared to slow. The seven-day daily average for new cases is now at 8 in Albemarle and 12 in Charlottesville. The seven-day average of positive tests in the district is at 3.6 percent today. 

Last night the Greene County Board of Supervisors got an update from emergency services director Melissa Meador. That body had not met since September 22. 

“Our numbers in Greene County stand at 255 as of today,” Meador said. “When we met last met it was at 212 so we are up 43. 12 hospitalizaiton, up 2, and 3 COVID related  fatalities, no change there.”

In all there have been 74 fatalities in the Blue Ridge Health District to date. 

The number of active cases at the University of Virginia is now at 95 people with 74 of those individuals being students. Yesterday, UVA officials announced they would loosen restrictions on gatherings from five people to ten people. They also said that all students living in dorms would be tested on a regular basis, or at least every nine days.

Governor Northam said it is crucial to avoid complacency as the seasons change.

“We are heading into the colder months and all of the outdoor socializing we’ve been able to do is getting harder,” Northam said. “People are going to be less likely to want to meet up outside when it’s 40 degrees or below.”

Northam also announced yesterday that he has signed legislation recognizing Juneteenth as a state holiday. Legislation passed the General Assembly in the ongoing special session. 

*

Now, about that fiber cut. 

A federal judge has extended the voter registration deadline in Virginia one day after the line was cut in Chester that served the online system. Several groups ranging from the New Virginia Majority Education Fund to the League of Women Voters filed a complaint asking for an extension, which required judicial action. Here’s judge John A. Gibney Jr.

“I will order, as you requested, all registration may occur until 1159 p.m. on tomorrow, October the 15th,” Gibney said, just before thanking the attorneys for working together to allow more people to register.

*

Today is the first day of operations for the new Greene County Department of Emergency Medical Services. The Greene Board of Supervisors authorized the move in May after the University of Virginia opted to not renew a contract to provide the service for the county. Here’s Melissa Meador again.

“All 14 full-time positions are filled and we have hired an additional 13 part-time employees,” Meador said. 

Supervisors praised Meador and her staff for putting together the department in such a short amount of time. 

“I went from a little bit of anger earlier this year when the contract was terminated, quickly to awe for what Ms. Meador and her new team has accomplished,” said Supervisor Bill Martin. 

*

The Virginia Department of Health has issued a warning against eating fish caught in the Upper James River due to elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) found in tissue samples. This affects a stretch of river from headwaters at Iron Gate to Balcony Falls Dam near Glasgow. (press release

*

Over 90 percent of the office space has been leased in the Dairy Central project according to an email from the firm Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer. In all, the Dairy Central will include 50,000 square feet of Class A office space and 180 upcoming apartments, as well as a food hall. Tenants for office space include the Costar Group and Virginia Humanities. 

“The Dairy Market targets an opening in late 2020 where Starr Hill brewery will anchor a 16-stall market hall featuring a talented roster of Virginia's leading purveyors, culinary talents and artisans,” the email reads. “Market Hall stalls are entirely subscribed with tenants including cult classics Moo Thru and Take it Away Sandwiches, The Milkman's Bar, and an exciting and diverse lineup of additional tenants.” 

Today in meetings, The Crozet Community Advisory Committee convenes virtually at 7 p.m. for a meeting that a discussion of a special use permit to amend previous approvals for the private Claudius Crozet Park to allow for a “Community Recreation Facility.” 

There will also be a presentation on the many projects the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority is planning for the Crozet Area. The RWSA Board of Directors were given this presentation in late August. There’s a capital cost of about $41.5 million in projects to increase capacity and improve safety at Beaver Dam. (slides)

Thanks again to LEAP for their Patreon-fueled shout-out. You too can help fund this show and get the word out about a nonprofit, an idea, a cause, or someone’s birthday. For now, you will get four shout-outs a month for $25.