Commentary: The Social Media Purge Exposes Net Neutrality’s True Goal

For nearly two decades, Silicon Valley made net neutrality its highest policy priority. Under the banner of a “free and open” internet, Google, Facebook, and Twitter sought regulations to ensure the uninterrupted flow of information by treating every bit equally. Or so they said.

Beginning last Friday night, these firms and others executed an unprecedented digital purge of the social media and video accounts of their political rivals. After several years of accelerating suspensions and suppressions, this time YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter permanently banned a number of high-profile conservatives and deplatformed thousands of others, at least temporarily. Many of these accounts had nothing to do with last Wednesday’s heinous events at the Capitol. Yet their histories are erased.

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Additional Walgreens in Virginia to Offer Free COVID-19 Antigen Testing, Health Department Says

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced on Thursday that it is expanding its partnership with Walgreens to offer Abbott BinaxNOW rapid antigen COVID-19 testing for free at specific locations throughout the Commonwealth, according to a press release from the agency.

Before the expanded agreement only four Walgreens in the state were providing the drive-through tests, but now that number has increased to 15 select locations, the release said.

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Henrico Public Schools Delays In-person Learning for All Grades Due to COVID-19 Numbers

Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) on Tuesday announced that it is delaying in-person learning for all grade levels indefinitely because of local coronavirus numbers, just a week after pushing back the return to classrooms for elementary school students.

In an online message to families, Superintendent Amy Cashwell initially said the delay had to do with the school division’s nurses being pulled away from their regular duties to assist in administering vaccinations for teachers and other Virginians included within Phase 1b of the state’s plan.

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Virginia Governor Expands Eligibility for Phase 1b COVID-19 Vaccinations

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) has expanded the eligibility for Phase 1b of the state’s vaccination effort to include people 65 and up as well as those between the ages of 16 to 64 who have high-risk medical conditions, he announced during a COVID-19 press briefing on Thursday. 

“This means about half of Virginia is now eligible to receive the vaccine,” the governor said. “That’s a major logistical effort and it is not going to happen overnight. Everyone will need to be patient; it’s going to happen as fast as it can be done.” 

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VDH launches Online Tool to Help Determine Virginians’ Vaccine Eligibility

With mass vaccination efforts now a month in, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has released a new online tool to help Virginians determine their eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine under the state’s multi-phase plan and when they can get it.

Completing the process is relatively simple and should not take more than 5 minutes maximum. Here is a step-by-step rundown

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Virginia Governor Northam Optimistic About State of the Commonwealth

Speaking in a mostly empty House of Delegates Chamber on Wednesday night, Governor Ralph Northam delivered an optimistic State of the Commonwealth address. In the live-streamed speech, Northam acknowledged the suffering caused by COVID-19 and an economic downturn, but highlighted stories of heroic Virginians from the past year. He touted the progress Virginia’s government made towards progressive goals in 2020, and called for more change.

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Dave Portnoy’s ‘Barstool Fund’ Raises $20M, Helps More Than 90 Small Businesses

The Barstool Fund, created by Dave Portnoy, has helped raise more than $20 million, helping nearly 100 small businesses hurt during the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns. Portnoy started the Barstool Fund one month ago with his own $500,000 to help small businesses.

The fundraiser has raised $20,119,270 from more than 156,000 donors and has aided 92 small businesses across the country as of Thursday evening.

Earlier in the day, Portnoy announced his fundraising success on Twitter, but stressed that their mission is far from over.

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Virginia Department of Health: Vaccinations for Second Phase Group Starting Next Week

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) said Friday that 11 select health districts around the state will begin vaccinating the second phase of priority populations, group 1b, this week, according to a press release from the agency. 

VDH’s announcement comes two days after Governor Ralph Northam held his first COVID-19 press briefing of 2021, where he said the state would be faster at administering vaccines, implemented a “use it or lose it” policy for providers and released specifics on the people in group 1b. 

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Virginia Delegate McNamara Pre-Files Legislation Exempting Forgiven PPP Loans from State Taxes

Delegate Joe McNamara (R-Roanoke) has pre-filed HB 1787, legislation for the 2021 General Assembly session that will exempt business owners from state taxes on forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. PPP loans are part of broad COVID-19 relief funding meant to help small businesses keep paying their employees.

When the PPP was passed by Congress in March 2020, the forgivable loans were exempt from federal taxes, but Virginia’s tax structure means the forgiven PPP loans are not automatically exempt from state taxes. McNamara said that could lead to confusion for business owners.

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Virginia Delegate McNamara Pre-Files Legislation Exempting Forgiven PPP Loans from State Taxes

Delegate Joe McNamara (R-Roanoke) has pre-filed HB 1787, legislation for the 2021 General Assembly session that will exempt business owners from state taxes on forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. PPP loans are part of broad COVID-19 relief funding meant to help small businesses keep paying their employees.

When the PPP was passed by Congress in March 2020, the forgivable loans were exempt from federal taxes, but Virginia’s tax structure means the forgiven PPP loans are not automatically exempt from state taxes. McNamara said that could lead to confusion for business owners.

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Virginia Health Facilities Had Advanced Knowledge of Unannounced COVID-19 Inspections, State Inspector General Says

State health facilities operated by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) were tipped off with advance knowledge on unannounced COVID-19 protocol inspections, according to a report from the Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) released last Thursday.

The report claimed that DBHDS personnel shared detailed information regarding inspections with as many as 11 facilities throughout the Commonwealth.

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COVID-19 Accelerates Harrisonburg City Schools Plan to Increase Outdoor Learning

COVID-19 is accelerating Harrisonburg City Schools’ push for more outdoor classrooms. At a school board meeting Tuesday, Superintendent Michael Richards said outdoor classrooms would provide more space for safe in-person classes. But Richards said the plan isn’t just a temporary plan to solve a problem caused by the pandemic.

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Henrico Public Schools Delay Return to In-Person Learning Because of COVID

Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) announced on Tuesday that the division is delaying the return to in-person learning for pre-kindergarten and elementary school students until the end of January because of the area’s current COVID-19 numbers.

HCPS Superintendent Amy Cashwell made the announcement and discussed the subsequent changes to the timeline for returning to the classroom in an online message to families.

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Governor Northam Appoints Dr. Danny Avula to Lead Virginia’s Vaccination Program

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has appointed Dr. Danny Avula, director of the Richmond City and Henrico County health departments, to lead the Commonwealth’s ongoing COVID-19 vaccination program.

Northam made the announcement during a coronavirus press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, the first time he has provided updates on the virus to the public in the new year.

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Virginia State Senator Ben Chafin Dies Due to Complications from COVID-19

Republican Virginia State Sen. Ben Chafin Jr. has died from COVID-19 complications, his office announced in a statement.

Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Virginia Senate Republican Caucus confirmed Chafin’s death, The Hill reported. Chafin represented Virginia’s 38th District in the last six years and was 60 years old.

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Falls Church City Public Schools Plans to Have All Students Back In-Person by End of January

Falls Church City Public Schools plans to have all students back to in-person classes by the end of January, according to a notice from Superintendent Peter Noonan.

“ALL students are slated to return in the month of January,” Noonan said on Monday. “We plan to return students in phases beginning on January 5, 2021, consistent with employee capacity to clean our buildings. We will open, starting with the smallest cohort and lead up to the largest cohort.”

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Delegate Cox Still Calling for Cash for Virginia Families Affected by Virtual Learning

President Trump issued an executive order on Monday allowing states to use COVID-19 funds to be provided as emergency learning scholarships for students who don’t have access to in-person learning. The funds are directed at families, not schools, and can also be used by homeschooling students. Gubernatorial candidate Delegate Kirk Cox’s staff (R-Colonial Heights) said the program is similar to one that he introduced in the General Assembly.

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Falls Church City Public Schools Plans to Have All Students Back In-Person by End of January

Falls Church City Public Schools plans to have all students back to in-person classes by the end of January, according to a notice from Superintendent Peter Noonan.

“ALL students are slated to return in the month of January,” Noonan said on Monday. “We plan to return students in phases beginning on January 5, 2021, consistent with employee capacity to clean our buildings. We will open, starting with the smallest cohort and lead up to the largest cohort.”

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New Virginia Law Bars Debt Collectors and Creditors from Taking or Garnishing Emergency Relief Payments

Thanks to a recently implemented law from the Virginia General Assembly, emergency relief payments from the federal government to Virginians will be protected from being seized or garnished by debt collectors and creditors.

The new law, stemming from House Bill 5068, comes as Virginians and Americans from across the country are starting to receive a second round of relief payments relating to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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Vaccinations in Virginia Are Lagging Behind Distributed Doses

Coronavirus vaccination efforts by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) have been ongoing since December 15, but the number of administered doses is significantly less than the amount distributed throughout the Commonwealth.

According to the COVID-19 vaccine dashboard, as of Thursday, Virginia has distributed 388,100 doses, but only 64,882 have actually been administered so far.

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Stafford County, Virginia Uses Federal Grant to Provide Restaurant Vouchers to SNAP Recipients

Stafford County is sending some extra cash to its 3,900 Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients in the form of $150 worth of restaurant vouchers to one of 100 local restaurants. County Board of Supervisors Chair Meg Bohmke said the nearly $800,000 program is the first part of the Stafford Cares initiative, a series of programs aimed at helping the county recover physically, mentally, and financially from COVID-19.

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More Than 40,000 Virginians Have Received COVID-19 Vaccines So Far

Roughly 41,709 Virginians have received first doses of the COVID-19 vaccines so far, according to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), as the state continues its efforts to reach herd immunity and put an end to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, the VDH launched the COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard, which will be updated daily to keep the public informed about the number of vaccines distributed and administered as well as the demographics of recipients.

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Minimum Wage Hikes Set for 2021 Imperil Businesses Struggling Amid COVID Shutdowns

More than 80 states and local municipalities are slated to see minimum wage hikes in 2021, even as business owners continue to struggle during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Employment Policies Institute, a non-profit based in Washington, D.C., that studies how public policy impacts employment growth, released a comprehensive list of the minimum wage increases that will go into effect next year and in subsequent years.

“Minimum wage increases are demonstrated to cause job losses even in times of economic health,” said Michael Saltsman, EPI’s managing director. “These states and local areas are increasing the cost of labor as businesses are dealing with forced closures or a drastic drop in revenue. Employers and employees will pay the price for these misguided good intentions.”

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Virginia Business Community Praises COVID-19 Stimulus, but Seeks State Action for Full Benefits

Virginia business advocates praised the COVID-19 stimulus package passed by Congress but said additional state action is necessary for businesses to receive the full benefits of the legislation.

The $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus provides about $325 billion in aid to small businesses nationally, including $284 billion for forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, $20 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loan grants, $15 billion for live venues, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions and another $12 billion for businesses in low-income and minority communities.

Congress’ bill also addressed a couple of concerns businesses raised regarding the first wave of PPP loans. The bill simplifies the forgiveness applications and makes the loans tax deductible at the federal level. The deductibility applies to loans that already have been received and any loans received in the second wave, which would prevent a hidden tax increase on businesses.

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Commentary: Teachable Union Moments

Lesson plans are a teacher’s daily guide for what students need to learn and how it will be taught. Because educators are always looking for new and interesting ways to engage kids, I have a few ideas that can be used to further student knowledge.

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Appomattox County Kills First Amendment Sanctuary Resolution

The Appomattox County Board of Supervisors declined to vote on a First Amendment Sanctuary resolution at a Monday night meeting. Multiple members of the board said that they share concerns over Governor Ralph Northam’s executive orders, but they said the board does not have the authority to enforce the resolution or to protect Appomattox County citizens from state-level enforcement of the executive orders. With no one willing to second Supervisor John Hinkle’s motion to vote on the resolution, the motion died.

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Virginia Beach Public Schools Postpones Decision on Winter Sports Season

The Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) postponed its decision Tuesday on whether to cancel the divisions’ high school winter sports season this year because of current COVID-19 data of the area.

Last week, Virginia Beach Superintendent Aaron Spence wrote in a letter to families that if either the percent positivity or the 7-day daily average of cases – two indicators used in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s K-12 School Metrics – does not improve to the “yellow range” by Tuesday, the winter sports season would be cancelled.

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140,000 Doses of Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Arrive in Virginia

Roughly 140,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are expected to arrive in Virginia on Wednesday after the state had initially placed an order with the company last week, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) said in a news release.

Shipments of Moderna’s vaccine, approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday, as well as Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine are being delivered to healthcare facilities and health departments across the Commonwealth this week. The two vaccines are going to 96 “geographically diverse locations” in the state, according to the release.

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New York Times Bungles Attempted Hit Piece on The Star News Network and The Georgia Star News

The New York Times bungled an attempted hit piece on The Star News Network and the Georgia Star News, and was forced to make several corrections within hours of the story’s publication on Tuesday.

The Times, however, failed to make all the factual corrections requested by Star News Digital Media, which owns and operates the Georgia Star News, part of its Star News Network.

“Misinformation ‘Superspreaders’ Target Georgia Senate Races,” said a hyperbolic headline in the once-serious “paper of record.”

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Virginia Legislators Blast 5,593 Page House Bill Passed Just Hours After Legislators Get The Full Draft

The U.S. House of Representatives leadership gave legislators just hours to consider a 5,593-page omnibus spending bill incorporating over $900 billion of coronavirus relief and $1.4 in government funding for fiscal year 2021. The bill was made available on Monday afternoon, with voting beginning on Monday evening, where it passed just after nine p.m.

“After several delays and last-minute haggling, we finally began receiving text of the COVID relief bill at 11:30 am this morning. This bill is likely to be thousands of pages, so I’m canceling my afternoon appointments & digging into the bill. As Reagan said, “Trust, but verify,” Congressman Ben Cline (R-VA06) tweeted.

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Pelosi Claims ‘Faith-Oriented’ Lawmakers Say They ‘Don’t Believe in Science’

Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Monday that “faith-oriented” people in Congress have told her they “don’t believe in science.”

The California Democrat spoke Monday on the house floor where she discussed coronavirus relief and the recently approved vaccines, accusing the White House of spreading “quackery” notions of herd immunity.

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Coronavirus Vaccines Can Guard Against New, More Contagious UK Strain, Experts Say

The two coronavirus vaccines that have been approved for emergency use authorization in the U.S. will be able to combat a new, more contagious strain of the virus in the U.K., experts said Monday.

Vaccines made by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna will be effective against the new strain, which is “very similar” to previous strains at the genetic level, University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation affiliate assistant professor Vin Gupta told CNBC. The Food and Drug Administration has approved both vaccines for emergency use authorization after large-scale human trials showed efficacy of more than 90%.

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Tennessee Nurse Who Fainted After Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine Says It Was Due to Underlying Condition

The nurse who appeared to faint after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in a viral video has recovered, according to a statement issued by her employer. Tiffany Dover, a nurse at CHI Memorial Hospital, reportedly came close to passing out due to a medical condition unrelated to the vaccination.

The hospital also cited information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, which stated that fainting sometimes occurs after all types of vaccinations.

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Commentary: Medical Ethicists Legitimize ‘Woke’ Science, Death Panels

Since March, the Left has proclaimed itself the guardian of science in dealing with the COVID-19 epidemic. Its champions are the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Dr. Fauci. All in the past have rendered valuable service to the public, and often life-saving aid.

Yet the mixture of COVID-19, the first national quarantine, and Trump Derangement Syndrome have combined to give us reason to question their judgment. These authorities variously have issued conflicting recommendations to wear, then not to wear, and finally to wear masks. Or they have both criticized and then advised travel bans.

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Mercer Student Jailed in Caymans For Breaking COVID Lockdown Rules

A student at Mercer University in Macon has been ordered to spend four months in jail in Cayman Islands for breaking the British territory’s COVID-19 lockdown rules, according to several reports. 

“Skylar Mack and her boyfriend, Cayman Islands-based competitive Jet Skier Vanjae Ramgeet were jailed immediately after their sentences were handed down on Tuesday,” Fox News said last week. 

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CVS Begins Effort to Administer COVID-19 Vaccinations

CVS announced Monday that it has formally launched its program to administer COVID-19 vaccines to residents and staff of long-term care facilities and will begin its efforts in Virginia on December 28th, according to a press release. 

The company said that its teams will start administering doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week across 12 states – including Ohio, Connecticut, Florida and Oregon, among others – and expects to vaccinate a total of four million residents and staff at over 40,000 long-term care facilities through the program. 

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Virginia to Receive Over 100,000 Fewer COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Than Anticipated

Virginia is now expected to receive just under 110,000 fewer COVID-19 vaccine doses from the federal government than originally anticipated.

Operation Warp Speed, the government’s vaccination program, informed the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) late Thursday night, and now the state is preparing to get 370,650 vaccine doses by the end of December instead of the initial 480,000 projection, according to a press release.

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Virginia Hospitals Receive First Shipments of COVID-19 Vaccine

The coronavirus vaccine has finally arrived in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Several hospitals in Virginia received initial shipments of the newly approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine this week, kicking off the state’s months-long plan for mass vaccinations and finally signaling a potential end to the pandemic.

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New Jersey Gym Owner Fined $1.2 Million for Defying COVID-19 Lockdowns Vows Not to Pay

A New Jersey gym owner who repeatedly defied coronavirus lockdowns and was fined roughly $1.2 million told the Daily Caller News Foundation that he doesn’t plan to pay a cent.

Ian Smith, co-owner of Atilis Gym, has incurred roughly 60 citations and is charged nearly $15,500 per day that he remains open in defiance of Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s COVID-19 closures, he told Fox News. Smith alongside Frank Trumbetti, another owner of the fitness facility, were arrested in late July after the pair refused to close their business following a weeks-long fight with state, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

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US Wants to Double COVID-19 Vaccine Order from Pfizer

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said on CNN Monday that the U.S. is seeking to double its COVID-19 vaccine order.

“So far, we have an agreement with the U.S. Government to provide them 100 million doses and this is a fixed order and we will provide those 100 million doses starting from now by the end of the first quarter and we will honor this commitment,” Bourla told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta on “New Day With Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.”

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Conservatives to Northam: We Earned Freedom of Religion 244 Years Ago

When Governor Ralph Northam outlined his latest COVID-19 restrictions and a curfew last week, he had a message specifically for religious leaders.

“This year we need to think about what is truly the most important thing. Is it the worship or the building? For me, God is wherever you are. You don’t have to sit in the church pew for God to hear your prayers,” the governor said. “Worship with a mask on is still worship.”

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Virginia High School League: Athletes Advised to Wear Masks During Competitions

The Virginia High School League (VHSL) is requiring participating schools to follow health recommendations from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) that strongly advise student-athletes to wear masks at all times while on the sidelines as well as during practices and games, the league said Thursday.

In a press release emailed to media outlets, VHSL Executive Director John “Billy” Haun announced the decision to adhere to the state health department.

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Virginia Parents Start a Petition Demanding for Williamsburg-James City County Students to Return to School

More than 500 people have signed an online petition created last week asking for students of Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools (WJCCPS) to be allowed to return to classes on January 12.

“The devastating impact “virtual learning” has had on some students and parents alike can no longer be ignored and it is time for the WJCC School Board to address these concerns. Many schools in Virginia and around the Country have remained open while following CDC guidelines and it is time for WJCC schools to follow suit,” Joseph Nickerson said on the Moveon.org petition he created.

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Three Churches Sue Northam Over COVID-19 Executive Orders

Three churches from Culpeper County and Madison County are suing Governor Ralph Northam, because although his latest capacity limits do not include churches, the other restrictions of Northam’s recent orders do.

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Virginia Teachers Union Calls for Statewide Virtual Instruction Until Mid-January

The Virginia Education Association (VEA) is calling for all public schools in the Commonwealth to switch to virtual instruction for the next month because of the recent rise in COVID-19 numbers throughout the state. 

VEA President Dr. James Fedderman issued the statement online Thursday. 

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Northam Imposes Curfew, New Mask Requirement, Updated Gathering Limits for Virginia

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued increased statewide restrictions during a press briefing Thursday afternoon to combat rising coronavirus numbers in the Commonwealth as the Christmas holiday approaches.

Starting at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, December 14th, a modified stay-at-home order will be in place with a curfew for all Virginians from midnight to 5 a.m. The only exceptions are getting food and goods, seeking medical attention as well as traveling to and from work.

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