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Editorial: Misguided Rally Taking Place on Wednesday

“Federal and Commonwealth officials are recommending at least a 14 day period of declines in positive tests before baby steps are taken to re-open businesses. It’s the height of selfishness not to follow this basic benchmark. One person’s desire for a haircut shouldn’t cost someone else’s life.”

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On Wednesday a group plans to exercise their Freedom of Speech rights to protest the current Federal and Commonwealth guidelines in the fight against COVID-19. Protesters will be driving around the Capitol grounds, honking their horns in an effort to pressure Governor (a medical doctor) Northam to lift the mandatory business closures that are in place. The rally coincides with the Legislature’s one day Veto session.

This rally is being promoted by Senator (not a medical doctor) Amanda Chase who just happens to be running for Governor.

The rally has provided talking points for the protestors if contacted by the media. Simple logic, which is not likely to be found at the rally, shows how this event is misguided and, frankly, dangerous.

  1. “Government Coronavirus projections have proven markedly inaccurate, as evidenced by them being continually revised downward” – Projections are a fickle beast. They’re never going to be perfect. These projections were also impacted by the shut-down and social distancing efforts.
  2. “Even at the Coronavirus peak, in such hot spots as New York City, the predicted hospital bed and ventilator shortages did not materialize, and hospitals remained well below capacity.” – This is a good thing and shows that efforts taken can and will work. There are several analogies bouncing around the internet, my favorite is, “The parachute is slowing my descent, I can take it off now.” Let’s wait until we land before we cut the cord, shall we?
  3. “Due to the Governor’s orders, hospitals are not allowed to perform ‘non-essential’ procedures. Patients needing cancer surgery, joint replacement, and other vital hospital services are unable to receive them.” – This is true. However, if we get another spike from – I don’t know – gatherings of people protesting gatherings and business closures will stretch on even longer.
  4. “ALL jobs are essential. The costs of the Governor’s economic shutdown far outweigh the short-term Coronavirus benefits, in the Commonwealth.” – Yes, all jobs are essential. But having your customer base or employees continually getting sick or dying will not be beneficial for anyone’s bottom line.

As of this morning, 300 people have died in the state of Virginia as a result of COVID-19. People are dying at an unprecedented rate. As of this morning 41,114 deaths in the United States and 165,939 worldwide. The United States is leading the world in deaths by this disease.

The good news is that today was the third day in a row the number of people testing positive has declined, but even that comes with a caveat. The number of those tested reached 56,735. Without more extensive testing we have no way of knowing how many asymptomatic folks are in the community. This is not the time to relax our guard. This fight isn’t over and we certainly haven’t won. Federal and Commonwealth officials are recommending at least a 14 day period of declines in positive tests before baby steps are taken to re-open businesses. It’s the height of selfishness not to follow this basic benchmark. One person’s desire for a haircut shouldn’t cost someone else’s life.

There is no denying the economic and psychological cost is immense, but we can and will get through this if rational minds prevail.

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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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Downtown

VDH launches first of its kind contact tracing app to help stop the spread of COVID-19

Virginia is the first state in the country to design a COVID-19 app using Bluetooth Low Energy technology developed by Apple and Google, which does not rely on personal information or location data. Users opt-in to download and utilize the free app.

RVAHub Staff

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Governor Ralph Northam on Wednesday announced the launch of COVIDWISE, an innovative exposure notification app that will alert users if they have been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. Virginia is the first state in the country to design a COVID-19 app using Bluetooth Low Energy technology developed by Apple and Google, which does not rely on personal information or location data. Users opt-in to download and utilize the free app.

“We must continue to fight COVID-19 from every possible angle,” Governor Northam said in a news release. “The COVIDWISE exposure notification app gives you an additional tool to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community while maintaining your personal privacy. I encourage all Virginians to download and use this app, so we can work together to contain this virus.”

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) developed COVIDWISE in partnership with Spring ML using funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The free app is available to download through the App Store and the Google Play Store. COVIDWISE is the only app in Virginia allowed to use the exposure notifications system (ENS) application programming interface (API) jointly created by Apple and Google. Other countries, including Ireland and Germany, have successfully used this technology in similar apps.

“As COVID-19 cases continue to be identified across the Commonwealth, it is important for people to know whether they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the disease,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA. “COVIDWISE will notify you if you’ve likely been exposed to another app user who anonymously shared a positive COVID-19 test result. Knowing your exposure history allows you to self-quarantine effectively, seek timely medical attention, and reduce potential exposure risk. The more Virginians use COVIDWISE, the greater the likelihood that you will receive timely exposure notifications that lead to effective disease prevention.”

COVIDWISE works by using random Bluetooth keys that change every 10 to 20 minutes. iOS and Android devices that have the app installed will anonymously share these random keys if they are within close proximity for at least 15 minutes. Each day, the device downloads a list of all random keys associated with positive COVID-19 results submitted by other app users and checks them against the list of random keys it has encountered in the last 14 days. If there is a match, COVIDWISE may notify the individual, taking into account the date and duration of exposure, and the Bluetooth signal strength which is used to estimate proximity.

Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will be notified by a VDH case investigator and will be given a unique numeric code. This code is entered into the app by the user and serves as verification of a positive report. Others who have downloaded COVIDWISE and have been in close proximity to the individual who reported as being positive will receive a notice which reads, “You have likely been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.” This is your alert to get tested.

The notice includes the estimated number of days since the exposure and provides several options for taking further action, including contacting a primary care physician or local health department, monitoring symptoms, and finding nearby test locations. The Virtual VDH tab within the app also provides links to online resources and relevant phone numbers.

Anyone who downloads the app has the option to choose to receive exposure notifications, and if a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, it is up to them whether or not to share their result anonymously through COVIDWISE. No location data or personal information is ever collected, stored, tracked, or transmitted to VDH as part of the app. Users have the ability to delete the app or turn off exposure notifications at any time.

Officials say widespread use is critical to the success of this effort, and VDH is launching a robust, statewide public information campaign to make sure Virginians are aware of the COVIDWISE app, its privacy protection features, and how it can be used to support public health and help reduce the spread of the virus.

To learn more about COVIDWISE and download the app, visit www.covidwise.org.

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Step into the past with Wickham House Virtual Tour

The Wickham House is currently closed due to the pandemic but you can still get a peek inside.

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The Valentine knows that getting out and about in the current situation isn’t ideal and in some cases completely impossible. To help the learning continue they’ve just launched a virtual tour of the Wickham House.

The Wickham House from the courtyard

The Wickham House sits at 1015 E. Clay Street and was completed in 1812. The Wickham House property once took up a whole city block. In 1882 it was purchased by Mann Valentine II, who filled the house with artifacts and then bequeathed them and the house for the establishment of a museum.

Welcome to the Wickham House, a National Historic Landmark and the Valentine museum’s largest object. This historic home allows us to tell the complicated story of the Wickham family, the home’s enslaved occupants, sharing spaces, the realities of urban slavery and more. While the Wickham House is currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope you will enjoy this sneak peek virtual tour of the historic home.

The tour focuses on the Wickham family, the home’s enslaves inhabitants, the realities of urban slavery, sharing these spaces and more.

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Downtown

City of Richmond government offices closed Tuesday due to impacts from Isaias

Due to the impact of Tropical Storm Isaias in the Central Virginia region, City of Richmond government offices will be closed Tuesday, August 4th, with only essential employees reporting, the city announced late Monday night.

RVAHub Staff

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Due to the impact of Tropical Storm Isaias in the Central Virginia region, City of Richmond government offices will be closed Tuesday, August 4th, with only essential employees reporting, the city announced late Monday night.

Essential city services will continue.

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