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Student move-in day approaches, beware of crowds and street closures

Franklin, Grace, Cary, Marshall, Laurel, and Pine Street will all be partially closed.

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It’s that time of year again. The Richmond population will be expanding starting on Friday as VCU return to school. Prepare for crowds and a few street closures.

From VCU Police Department:

WEEKEND TRAFFIC / MONROE PARK CAMPUS: VCU freshmen will move into their residence halls from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Friday and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday. Traffic congestion is expected in the areas near VCU’s student residence halls Friday evening and Saturday and there will be very limited street parking available.

In order to ensure safety and order as students move into residence halls, the following streets will have travel restrictions or will be closed:

  • Franklin Street: The street will be closed to through traffic between Harrison and Belvidere streets; traffic arriving for move-in will be reduced to one travel lane between Harrison and Belvidere streets.
  • Grace Street: Travel lanes will remain open, however, drivers may experience some congestion between Ryland and Belvidere streets.
  • Cary Street: Travel lanes will remain open, but drivers may experience some congestion between Cherry and Jefferson streets.
  • Marshall Street: Travel lanes will remain open, but drivers may experience some congestion between Bowe and Hancock streets.
  • Laurel Street: The street will be closed between West Grace and West Cathedral streets. Parishioners of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart will be allowed to park in designated spots on Cathedral Street and in the West Main Street Parking Deck. Drivers may experience some congestion between Cathedral and Cary streets.
  • Pine Street: The street continues to be closed between West Cary and West Main streets for construction through 2018.

Traffic restrictions and closures will be in effect on Saturday from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. VCU Police will handle traffic control as students move in. In addition, Laurel Street will be closed between Franklin and Grace streets on Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.

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Education

The new on-campus college experience: self-isolation and distraction

Social isolation due to the coronavirus has become a stressor for many college students across Virginia, who report that studying is more difficult and their mental health is suffering.

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By Hunter Britt

Social isolation due to the coronavirus has become a stressor for many college students across Virginia, who report that studying is more difficult and their mental health is suffering.

Shane Emory, a senior broadcast journalism major at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, says he is experiencing this firsthand. While the dorms are quieter overall, there is very little opportunity to escape distractions. Emory says that his guitar and television are the top two things that draw him away from work.

Since the pandemic swept the nation, altered routines have become the new normal. Students who usually study in the library say that is no longer an option to consider lightly. Many students say the best option is to stay put and endure distractions and loneliness rather than risk contracting the virus or unknowingly endangering someone else.

Camryn Nesmith, a junior nursing major at Liberty University in Lynchburg, says that increased social isolation has taken a toll on her concentration and mental wellbeing. She also says that it is difficult to escape from loud noises and distractions in her dorm.

“There has been an effect on my school work because I don’t do well doing schoolwork in my dorm. I need to be in the library or somewhere like that,” she says. “I try to get my work done early in the morning when it’s quiet.”

Nesmith feels that Liberty prioritizes the safety of its students and that there are always people enforcing the rules and making sure everyone wears a mask. The university is currently reporting 184 total cases since Sept. 2. Almost 490 on-campus students are currently quarantined, along with 492 commuters and 139 employees.

Marian Woodington, a sophomore vocal music education major at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, says via email that she initially attended in-person classes, albeit reluctantly. Cases quickly spiked at the Harrisonburg-based university, hitting over 500 the first week classes resumed.

“I did feel reluctant because, since there were not harsh regulations, anyone could have sat in the seat that I chose, and they could be sick,” she says. “The rooms were only cleaned at certain times throughout the day and you never know what someone else has touched when walking into a building.”

JMU classes were moved online about a week after starting after consultation with the Virginia Department of Health. As of Friday, the university has reported almost 1,400 total coronavirus cases since Aug. 17.

The pandemic has caused a significant mental health impact on students. More students are using VCU support services, according to Jihad Aziz, the interim executive director of VCU University Counseling Services. Students who have sought counseling this semester raise many concerns such as worry over family members and the fear of contracting the coronavirus, Aziz said in an email. The office has implemented some new methods in response, such as offering support groups for students that meet weekly over Zoom.

“We know that students are seeking connection and it’s important that they know that they are not alone during these difficult times,” Aziz says. “We have support groups specifically for students of color, those with chronic health issues, health professional students, and a few others.”

VCU initially experienced a spike in cases when a cluster of 44 positive cases connected to VCU Athletics was reported in the second week of classes. The university has reported a total of 251 cases since Aug. 17.

COVID-19 and the accompanying economic recession have negatively affected the mental health of many people, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. A Kaiser poll taken in mid-July reported that 53% of U.S. adults say their anxiety levels have increased significantly due to stress associated with COVID-19. Adults also reported difficulties sleeping and eating due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.

Rickaya Sykes, a junior theatre performance major at VCU, has a different perspective on how staying inside has affected her mental health. She considers herself an extrovert, but says that prolonged periods indoors have improved her concentration and time management.

“I’m able to relax knowing that I don’t want to go out because of the virus,” she says. “I can stay in and cook, I can watch movies, and I don’t feel pressured to be on the go all the time. I find it soothing to not have plans to go anywhere.”

According to the CDC, taking time to relax and unwind can be a good way to cope with stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like Sykes, Emory also is taking time to relax. When the call of his guitar becomes too loud to ignore, he puts down the books and picks it up.

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Government

College Republicans discuss future of GOP in Virginia

Young Republicans say this is a crucial time in the country’s history amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the country facing a reckoning in its relationship with racial justice and an open Supreme Court seat.

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By Brandon Shillingford

Young Republicans say this is a crucial time in the country’s history amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the country facing a reckoning in its relationship with racial justice and an open Supreme Court seat.

Many of the Generation Z Republican and conservative voters, ages 18-23, are participating in their first or second presidential election and are ready for their voices to be heard.

Cameron Cox, vice president of campaigns for the College Republicans at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, sees the pandemic as a priority that must be at the forefront of the government’s concerns, but it shouldn’t be handled by shutting the economy down. Cox is no stranger to politics. His father Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, has served in the General Assembly since 1990 and is considering a run for Virginia governor.

“At a national level, this means continuing to give states the guidance and tools they need to effectively manage their people,” Cox said in an email. “It means helping, not hindering the market, in aiding our nation’s economic recovery. It means empowering people to get back to work and provide for their families.”

Andrew Vail, chairman of the College Republicans at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, believes COVID-19 and racial injustice are challenges for the country which will eventually pass.

“People organize and politicians make laws and, you know, social movements go on,” Vail said. “At some point, the world will calm down.”

Vail thinks that cities in Virginia had less of a challenge containing Black Lives Matter protests compared to New York City, Portland, Seattle, and Washington D.C., where protests attracted tens of thousands of people and often saw conflicts between opposing groups.

He said the protests throughout the commonwealth were “pretty normal protests” with people utilizing their constitutional rights.

Courtney Hope Britt, the southern regional vice-chair for the College Republican National Committee and chair emeritus to the College Republican Federation of Virginia, was disappointed with responses to the protests in Richmond. Painting murals and taking down Confederate statues “don’t change the day-to-day reality of Black people in our state,” Britt said in an email.

More schools are shedding Confederate names, but Britt doesn’t believe those moves will effectively deal with educational disparities between Black and white students.

“These problems are complex and incredibly deep-rooted in our systems, and so it will take time to rework things,” she said. “I don’t really see that being done right now.”

Britt also disagrees with Gov. Ralph Northam’s handling of the pandemic. A poll conducted by Northeastern, Harvard, Rutgers, and Northwestern universities found 59% of respondents agreed with the governor’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in July but only 46% echoed that sentiment in August.

Virginia’s rate of 2.2 COVID-19 tests per 1,000 residents puts it at No. 29 in the U.S., according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Britt said that while testing has improved, “we’re still lagging way behind where we should be.”

“Governor Northam is a medical doctor; he should have been as well prepared to respond to the pandemic as anyone and yet he did worse than almost everyone,” she said.

Cox said the Democratic majority in the Virginia General Assembly needs to address the state’s projected $2.7 billion shortfall. He also said that reopening schools safely are issues that need to be resolved. There needs to be “safe, in-person learning for students, as well as resources for kids not in the classroom to avoid being left behind,” he said.

“Education is at the center of entities affected by the coronavirus,” Cox said. “As school systems handle their students in different ways, it’s important for the state to help, not hinder, schools in this process.”

Vail and Britt, a recent graduate of The T. C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond, said that there is plenty of ideological diversity between the younger and older members of the Republican Party. Britt said the Republican Party has been better about “intentionally recruiting greater diversity into the party.”

“I’m really proud of that,” she said.

Vail echoed this sentiment.

“I’ve seen that a lot of conservatives lean more in a Libertarian direction, and most Republicans in their ’40s and ’50s are sort of your George Bush brand of conservative,” Vail said.

Richard Anderson, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, sees young Republicans as invaluable assets that will serve the nation for years to come. He said they play a crucial element in campaigns through door knocking, phone banking, and registration of new voters.

“Many will go on to serve in local, state, and federal offices,” Anderson said. “In that capacity, they have vital roles to play in shaping public policy today and in the future.”

Many millennials and Gen Zers who recently have become active in the Republican Party are prioritizing issues that may be considered more liberal. According to a Pew Research study, almost half of millennials and Gen Z Republicans are more likely than their older counterparts to say climate change is not doing enough to lessen the impact of climate change.

Rather than just being against the Green New Deal, young conservatives are working on their own climate proposals like the American Conservative Coalition’s American Climate Contract and the Declaration of Energy Independence, according to Britt. The movements seek to fight climate change and provide clean energy to Americans.

“We are beginning to address issues that have often been left to the Democrats with positive arguments,” Britt said.

There are younger conservatives who do not support President Donald Trump and who want to see a new Republican platform grounded in Constitutional principles but “more conducive to an evolving American landscape.” A Georgetown University graduate launched gen z GOP in July to reach younger voters and establish a “palatable alternative to the left.”

Britt views Trump positively, however. He has brought an invigoration and excitement to the party that hasn’t been seen before, she said. This makes her excited and optimistic about the party’s future.

“I’m excited for us to continue building on that for the next four years and beyond,” Britt said.

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Community

Fall Plant Sale at TreeLab

Go buy yourself a nice Juncus effusus (Soft Rush) or Salix nigra (Black Willow).

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Okay, I didn’t know that we had a TreeLab here in Richmond so it’s great news to hear that they’re having a sale on perennials, shrubs, and trees. See the list and pricing here.

It’s the end of the summer and we need to clear out some inventory!

Join TreeLab at the Amelia Street School greenhouse (behind the school on S Meadow St.) on Saturday, October 3rd from 9am – 2pm for native trees, shrubs, and perennials for your fall landscaping. Support TreeLab’s work greening Richmond with your purchase.

Details:

We will not be accepting pre-orders or holding plants. First come, first serve. NO CASH! We will be accepting payment via credit card or check only.

Please wear a mask and observe social distancing. The plant sale is located outdoors.
Location and parking:

Amelia Street School is in the Maymont neighborhood
1821 Amelia St, Richmond, VA 23220
The greenhouse is located behind the school, along S Meadow St.

Please park on the street!
You will be able to drive up onto the lawn to load plants into your car, but please do not park there.

The official word on Enrichmond’s TreeLab.

TreeLab is here to beautify, improve, and inform the City of Richmond through ornamental plant production, planting, and education, with a focus on native species.

TreeLab produces high-quality beautification plants and connects citizens to the benefits of Richmond’s natural urban environment through information distribution, access to horticultural expertise, collaborative projects, and workforce development opportunities.

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