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Evan Jones

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Governor Northam says Virginia has ordered a major shipment of much-needed personal protective equipment – PPE’s – but it is not scheduled to arrive from Asia for another week. In the meantime, he urges all Virginians to wear masks when heading out, even if they have to make the coverings themselves. But this call also comes with a word of caution, as WLNI’s Evan Jones reports:

04-07 Northam Wrap-WLNI

 

 

 

 

 

Lynchburg Fire Chief Greg Wormser says all 16 firefighters who were quarantined from the Fort Hill Fire Station are now cleared to return to duty. The station has been cleaned and is reopening today. Wormser says he expects 10 firefighters from the downtown station to be released from their separate quarantine later this week.

NEWS RELEASE: Lynchburg Fire Chief Greg Wormser is pleased to announce all 16 firefighters who were quarantined from Fire Station 3 (Fort Hill) have been cleared to return to duty. In making this announcement, Chief Wormser stated, “I am thankful for the outpouring of support from the community and the support from the families of our firefighters while they are away from home for extended periods of time.” In addition, Station 3 has been cleaned and will reopen today, Monday, April 6.

The department anticipates the remaining 10 firefighters from Station 1 (Downtown) to be released from quarantine later this week.

“I am very proud of our firefighters for working additional shifts and filling in for their colleagues to ensure the health and safety of our community,” said Chief Wormser.

Photo: BCSO

Officials say two children who were sitting in a car are hospitalized In Roanoke after at least one gunshot entered the vehicle. The Bedford County Sheriff’s Office says it happened Sunday evening along Old County Road south of Bedford. The children are ages 5 and 12, and officials say their injuries may be from broken glass, not from the gunfire itself. 45-year-old Ricky Blake faces multiple charges and is currently jailed without bond.

NEWS RELEASE: At 7:02 p.m. Sunday evening, Bedford County 911 received a call reporting two people had been shot on Old Country Road. Bedford County Sheriff’s deputies, Va. State Police along with Bedford County Fire and Rescue units responded. Two victims, ages 12 and 5, were transported to Roanoke Memorial Hospital. At this time it appears the injuries sustained by the victims were possibly caused by broken window glass of the vehicle they were sitting in at the time of the shooting.

The Bedford County Sheriff’s Office arrested Ricky Blake, age 45. He has been charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and two counts of felonious malicious wounding. He is being held in the Blue Ridge Regional Bedford Adult Detention Center without bond.

At this time the condition of the victims is not known.

 

Roanoke and Lynchburg-region broadcasters and health care systems are joining forces later today in an unprecedented effort to answer your COVID-19 questions and concerns — especially those that specifically apply to our region. You can watch it on any of the Roanoke-Lynchburg television stations or hear it on WLNI. Evan Jones has a preview:

04-06 COVID Broadcast Wrap-WLNI-WEB

The program begins at 7:00 pm tonight.

Representatives from three regional health systems are joining with more than a half dozen television and radio outlets for a 60-minute program aimed at helping flatten the COVID-19 curve. It includes doctors from Carilion, LewisGale and the Salem VA Medical Center.

NEWS RELEASE: Roanoke, Va. (April 2, 2020) – In a historic first, healthcare and broadcast entities across western Virginia are teaming up under a shared goal: flattening the COVID-19 curve.

On Monday, April 6 at 7 p.m., clinicians from the Virginia Department of Health, Carilion Clinic, LewisGale Medical Center and the Salem VA Medical Center are partnering to host a panel discussion on COVID-19, “Coronavirus: A Community Conversation.”

Panelists will answer questions from the public, which will be collected and submitted by participating broadcasters. Topics will include:

  • A situational brief for the region and health systems
  • What people need to do
  • How community members can plan and help

The hour-long event will be aired live on all four regional television network affiliates (WDBJ, WFXR, WSET and WSLS) and three regional radio stations (WFIR, WLNI and WVTF). Partners will also provide digital access through their online streaming services.

“As local community servants and first informers, we are very proud to be teaming up with community health care experts for this unprecedented hour-long broadcast,” said Douglas F. Easter, executive director for the Virginia Association of Broadcasters. “The broadcasters of Virginia want you to know that we are here for you and we will continue to work as hard as we can for our local communities in these unprecedented times of need. We can all work together to beat this terrible disease.

To adhere to social distancing guidelines, participating broadcasters are strategically pooling resources to minimize the number of production staff required to be on site for the actual event. All broadcasters are collaborating in virtual planning meetings with the healthcare systems to ensure smooth production.

This scale of collaboration is unprecedented. In a time of such uncertainty, it takes an entire community to flatten the COVID-19 curve. In western Virginia, healthcare and broadcast partners are bridging the gap to ensure that residents have accurate and reliable information to combat COVID-19.

 

The number of confirmed Lynchburg-area COVID-19 cases held steady over the last 24 hours, and the statewide total now tops 2,600. The Virginia Department of Health reports 2,637 cases across the state, an increase of 230 in one day. The VDH reports 51 deaths, which is one less than the number reported Saturday; a department spokesperson says “This is due to a change in the code for reporting deaths due to COVID-19. One of the previously reported deaths that occurred in a patient is not attributed to COVID-19.”  The death total remains about 2% of confirmed cases.

In the Lynchurg region, there are 10 confirmed cases in Lynchburg, 6 in Amherst County, 4 in Bedford County and 2 in Campbell County. All those numbers are unchanged from Saturday.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Anxiety among family members of inmates in Virginia prisons skyrocketed this week, after the state Department of Corrections announced that four inmates, four staff members and a nurse tested positive for the coronavirus.

Families and inmate advocates fear this could be just the beginning of a massive outbreak in prisons across the state. They’re particularly worried about women’s prisons, including two that already have confirmed cases and another that houses inmates with serious health issues but has a history of providing inadequate medical care.

“My anxiety level, if I had to put it on a scale from 1 to 10, it’s a 15,” said Someko Brown, whose mother, a 59-year-old diabetic with high blood pressure, is serving an 11-year sentence for embezzlement at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women in Goochland, which has three inmate cases.

“None of those ladies signed up for a death penalty,” she said.

Virginia’s top public safety official has said law enforcement across the state is doing all it can to respond to the pandemic. But inmate advocates are calling on Gov. Ralph Northam to step up efforts to reduce the inmate population at Virginia’s 41 state prisons, 72 local and regional jails, and nine juvenile facilities. Combined, the facilities house more than 60,000 people.

“When you look at the conditions people are being housed in — literally on top of each other in bunk beds, multiple people in a room, sometimes dozens sharing a single toilet and shower — to think that you will be able to prevent the spread through that population, that’s just not going to happen,” said Shannon Ellis, an attorney in the Legal Aid Justice Center’s Civil Rights and Racial Justice program.

The center has asked Northam to use his executive clemency powers to grant pardons to high-risk inmates and those who are close to their release dates. Advocates are also asking the Parole Board to expedite the early release of certain inmates.

Fears of an outbreak are heightened at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, where some of the state’s most seriously ill female inmates are housed. A federal judge last year issued an injunction against DOC officials, saying the department didn’t live up to eight of 22 standards established under a 2016 settlement in a lawsuit that alleged pervasive deficiencies in medical care.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with health problems, it can cause pneumonia or death.

Brian Moran, the state’s Secretary for Public Safety and Homeland Security, said the Parole Board approved the early release of 96 inmates in March. Because parole was abolished in Virginia in 1995, only geriatric inmates and those convicted before 1995 qualify, Moran said. He said the governor’s use of his clemency power is “very extraordinary relief,” but said all options are being considered.

Inmates’ families say the Department of Corrections has not responded quickly enough to the emerging threat. Although the department halted inmate visitation quickly, other preventative steps took weeks to put in place.

DOC spokeswoman Lisa Kinney said corrections officers have been going through a written and verbal virus screening for several weeks, but acknowledged that doing daily temperature checks and wearing face masks did not become mandatory for DOC employees until this week.

Kinney said the DOC is giving each inmate two bars of soap per week so they can wash their hands frequently.

DOC also said inmates who live in dormitory-style housing have been instructed to sleep head-to-toe to increase breathable space between them. To promote social distancing, the department is also working on a plan to allow inmates to temporarily keep their medications instead of waiting in the usual pill line.

Jeremy Wiley, whose mother is incarcerated the Virginia Correctional Center for Women, said he is worried because his mother has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“It’s almost her time to get out — she has about another six months — so we’re hoping it doesn’t spread through the prison,” he said.

allow inmates to temporarily keep their medications instead of waiting in the usual pill line.

Jeremy Wiley, whose mother is incarcerated the Virginia Correctional Center for Women, said he is worried because his mother has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“It’s almost her time to get out — she has about another six months — so we’re hoping it doesn’t spread through the prison,” he said. Continue reading

SATURDAY UPDATE: The number of confirmed Lynchburg-area COVID-19 cases continues to climb, and the statewide total now tops 2,400. The Virginia Department of Health reports 2,407 cases across the state, an increase of almost 400 in one day. The VDH reports 52 deaths, which is about 2% of confirmed cases.

In the Lynchburg  region, there are 1o reported COVID cases in Lynchburg, 6 in Amherst County, 4 in Bedford County and 2 in Campbell County.

 

Lynchburg City Hall will be closed to the public as of Monday. City Manger Bonnie Svercek says it is in best course of action in efforts to reduce the chances of building employees and visitors contracting COVID-19. Lynchburg residents are urged to conduct business with city on line, by phone or through the mail.

NEWS RELEASE: Beginning Monday, April 6, 2020, Lynchburg City Hall, 900 Church Street, will be closed to the public in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and Governor Ralph Northam’s Stay at Home directive.

“I’ve decided closing City Hall was the best course of action to take at this time,” said City Manager Bonnie Svrcek. “We need to reduce opportunities for exposure whenever we can for both our employees and for the public.”

Employees will continue to provide services under a minimal staffing plan adopted last week. Residents are encouraged to conduct business with the City online, by mail or telephone.

“We want to continue to be as responsive to citizens as possible and have plans and procedures in place to ensure that we can continue to provide quality service and prompt responses to meet our citizens’ needs,” said Svrcek.

Anyone making payments to the City may do so online at www.lynchburgva.gov, by mail or using the white drop box located in front of City Hall. No cash should be placed in the drop box – only checks and money orders, please.

State income tax returns are due by May 1. Those who need assistance in preparing their return by the Commissioner of the Revenue’s Office will not be able to visit the office in person. Instead, call the office at (434) 455-3870 or send an email to cor@lynchburgva.gov for assistance.

The City of Lynchburg is committed to ensuring that construction projects are able to continue during this closure. Contractors are encouraged to contact the Community Development Department by telephone at (434) 455-3900 to access development services like site plans, grading plans, public hearing items, or zoning questions; or call (434) 455-3910 for building permits, inspections and property maintenance concerns. Plans can be submitted online at www.lynchburgva.gov/online-submittals. Plans and payments may be left in the City Hall drop box.

“These are unprecedented times, and I know there will be some inconveniences,” said Svrcek. “Our employees work hard to serve the public every day, and I know they will continue to do their very best to serve the public under these circumstances.”

For more information, call the Citizens First Information Center at (434) 856-CITY (2489), or download the City of Lynchburg’s mobile app at www.lynchburgva.gov/apps.

Centra officials say they do not expect a peak in Lynchburg-region COVID-19 cases until mid-May — and the first wave of cases is likely to last through the end of June. CEO Andy Mueller told a virtual news conference today that health system appears prepared to handle the area’s expected peak demand for ventilators and hospital beds:

03-31 Mueller Bite-WEB

But Mueller says Centra will keep working in efforts to be over-prepared for any circumstances that might arise. That includes space available at its college of nursing and a University of Lynchburg residence hall if the need requires.

Here is Mueller’s view of where forecast models are likely to lead in Lynchburg:

03-31 Mueller Statement-WEB

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