Newscast for July 16: 2007 deaths, back to Phase 2?

Today’s assemblage of pertinent information is brought to you by the College Inn, a place that is ready to bring you a variety of food and beverages throughout Charlottesville via delivery. That includes ice cream! Place your order online at thecollegeinn.com or phone 977-2710. 

Virginia’s COVID-19 death toll is now 2,007 based on new information released this morning. The Virginia Department of Health reports another 904 new cases today, and reported 1,084 new cases on Wednesday. That brings the total number of cases to 74,431. The statewide 7-day positive percentage for all testing encounters has increased to 7.1 percent. 

Updated figures from the Thomas Jefferson Health District were unavailable at recording time. 

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The Albemarle Board of Supervisors is considering sending a letter to Governor Ralph Northam asking for permission for the county to move back to Phase 2 of the Forward Virginia plan, which would reduce the size of allowed public gatherings from 200 people to 50. It would also close indoor dining. Supervisor Ann Mallek is concerned there will be a spike in cases.

“I would encourage everybody to think about whether we really want to be in phase 3,” said Ann Mallek. 

Supervisor Diantha McKeel shared that concern and suggested sending a letter to Governor Northam especially with the University of Virginia possibly returning in weeks.  

“I am very concerned about 20,000 students coming back,” McKeel said. “We now have our school division that’s saying they’re struggling to even get enough teachers. 

County staff said they would need to review whether they could enforce local rules if Governor Northam did not move back to phase two. Supervisors may hold a special meeting to further discuss the letter and next steps for the pandemic response.  County Executive Jeffrey Richardson said that county office buildings will remain closed to the public and meetings will continue to be held virtually. 

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Do you or someone you know need assistance paying your rent or your mortgage due to the pandemic? A local organization has begun coordination of Virginia’s Rent and Mortgage Relief Program. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission has a central website for information on how to apply for relief funding in Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, and Nelson Counties, as well as the city of Charlottesville. Details on eligibility are on the website, which can be seen in the show notes and the newsletter version of this newscast. (more info)

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The Dean of the Students at the University of Virginia has written a letter to undergraduates warning them that continued public gatherings in violation of COVID-19 restrictions could end plans to return to on Grounds instruction about a month from now. Dean Allen Groves responded to photographs and accounts of students crowding into Corner bars and fraternity houses, with people not wearing masks or staying six feet apart. Groves called such activities “selfish and ignorant” and chided them to follow the rules. He stated – “If such behavior continues, we will not make it long into the fall semester before a significant outbreak occurs and we then need to send students home.” (NBC29 story

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There will be another COVID-19 testing event this evening at Booker T. Washington Park in Charlottesville from 5 to 7 p.m. Sentara Martha Jefferson does not require preregistration for the event, which is being offered at no cost with a focus on “communities of color.” People can either drive through or walk up. There will be another event at the same time and place on Thursday, July 23. The University of Virginia Health System will have a COVID-19 test at Buford Middle School on Saturday from July 18 from 2 to 5 p.m. This event is also offered for free. More details on events in Nelson County and Greene County coming in the days to come, or on the Thomas Jefferson Health District website. (testing information)

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In recent years, many people across the world have opened their doors to paying guests who seek short-term rentals. The AirBnB phenomenon has led some to question the impact this may have on the availability of affordable places for people who live here. Phil d’Oronzio is the chair of the Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee, or HAC.

“There had been some queries to the HAC about the impact of short-term rentals, AirBnB and their analogues, and its impact on housing stock,” d’Oronzio said.

The HAC reached out to the Center for Civic Innovation at SmartCville to take a look at the underlying data. Nathan Day is one of the fellows who took a look at property records and zoning for an initial report to share with the many members of the HAC. (Smart Cville blog entry)

“This is a data gathering from my standpoint,” said Day. “I’m good at getting data and visualizing it but I rely on experts like you for the interpretation and what the policy changes will make going forward.” 

The data was collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and has not been collected since. The study found that about one percent of the city’s total housing stock is being used for transient use, or about 200 units. 

“It’s a small fraction of the total number of houses out there and we haven’t begun to dive into what that trend looks like over time because I think that’s the next question,” Day said.  

Joy Johnson represents the Public Housing Association of Residents.

“I’m just wondering how many of those AirBnB is actually in the low-income neighborhoods or around the low-income neighborhoods because we know that a lot of houses are being bought up in our neighborhoods,” Johnson said.

Work will continue on the details of the study. 

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