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Commonwealth Transportation Board allocates Federal CARES Act Funding to Virginia public transit systems

The Commonwealth Transportation Board approved the allocation of nearly $100 million of the $456 million in federal public transportation funding apportioned to Virginia by the CARES Act.

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The Commonwealth Transportation Board approved the allocation of nearly $100 million of the $456 million in federal public transportation funding apportioned to Virginia by the CARES Act. The stimulus funds will enable local governments, small urban, and rural transit agencies throughout the Commonwealth to offset the substantial revenue losses, as well as sustain essential mobility functions related to the prevention, preparation, and response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our public transit agencies are the backbone of our economy and ensure critical movement of goods and people in all of our communities,” stated Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “This relief helps Virginia’s transit systems continue essential services and operations, and also offset the substantial costs of driver salaries, sanitization supplies, and protective equipment purchased to combat the Coronavirus and its aftermath.”

On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which includes $25 billion in federal transit assistance. The Commonwealth of Virginia was apportioned $456 million as follows:

  • $356.6 million distributed directly to urban public transit agencies.
  • $47.2 million to the Commonwealth of Virginia for discretionary allocation to small urban transit agencies.
  • $52.5 million to the Commonwealth of Virginia for discretionary allocation to rural transit agencies, the Virginia Breeze intercity bus service, and the Appalachian Development Public Transportation Program.

The CTB amended DRPT’s FY 2020-2025 Six-Year Improvement Program (SYIP) to reflect the nearly $100 million in discretionary funding as follows:

  • 100% of small urban transit agency funding according to the existing formula utilized by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Small urban agencies can apply directly to the FTA for their share of funding (CARES Act Section 5307 Apportionment Split Letter).
  • 50% of rural transit agency funding according to the FY2020 allocation formula for FTA rural operating funding. (CARES Act Section 5311 Initial Distribution)
  • 15% of rural transit agency funding to the Virginia Breeze intercity bus program.
  • 35% of remaining rural transit agency and Appalachian Development Public Transportation Program funding to be held in reserve to address critical transit agency needs and administrative support for management of the CARES Act program.

The federal CARES Act funding does not require a state or local match and is nearly three times the amount of federal transit funding appropriated to Virginia transit agencies in FY 2020. All operating and capital uses are eligible, retroactive to January 20, 2020, and include purchases of personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning equipment, and payment of administrative leave for employees.

CARES Act funding comes in addition to the $11 million in emergency statewide operating funding approved by the CTB last month, which has also allowed many Virginia public transit agencies to offset revenue and ridership losses and provide essential trips fare-free.

“The CARES Act will offer much-needed relief to our transit agencies that continue to endure ridership and revenue losses,” stated Director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation, Jennifer Mitchell. “The funding will have a profound impact on the public transportation industry and its ability to recover from the pandemic.”

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CDC says the vaccinated should wear masks indoors in areas with high infection rates

Federal health officials on Tuesday urged Americans in areas of the country with the highest surges in COVID-19 infections to once again wear masks when they are in public, indoor settings — even if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

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By Laura Olson

The updated recommendations marked a sharp shift from the agency’s guidance in May that Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to wear a mask in most situations, indoors and outdoors.

The updates also included changes for schools, with federal health officials now urging everyone in K-12 schools to wear a mask indoors. That includes teachers, staff, students and visitors, regardless of vaccination status and the level of community transmission.

The update in CDC guidance was prompted by new data indicating that although breakthrough infections among the vaccinated are rare, those individuals still may be contagious and able to spread the disease to others, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Wearing a mask indoors in areas with “substantial” or “high” transmission of the virus could help to reduce further outbreaks of the highly contagious delta variant, she said.

Some 39 states have infection rates that have reached “substantial” or “high” levels of transmission, according to a data tracker on the CDC website. The CDC rates Virginia, with 56.4 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days and a 5 to 8 percent positivity rate, as having a “substantial” level of community transmission. However, that varies widely by locality.

“As always, we will thoroughly review these recommendations,” said Alena Yarmosky, a spokeswoman for Gov. Ralph Northam.  “The governor has taken a nuanced and data-driven approach throughout this pandemic—which is why Virginia has among the nation’s lowest total COVID-19 cases and death rates.

“As he has said repeatedly, the only way to end this pandemic is for everyone to get vaccinated. The facts show vaccines are highly effective at protecting Virginians from this serious virus — over 98 percent of hospitalizations and over 99 percent of deaths have been among unvaccinated Virginians.”

The agency also tracks infection rates on the county level, and 63 percent of U.S. counties are in those two categories of concern.

“This was not a decision that was taken lightly,” Walensky said. She added that other public health and medical experts agreed with the CDC that the new information on the potential for vaccinated people to have contagious infections required the agency to take action.

President Joe Biden described the agency’s revision on recommended mask use as “another step on our journey to defeating this virus.”

“I hope all Americans who live in the areas covered by the CDC guidance will follow it,” Biden said. “I certainly will when I travel to these areas.”

The mask-use changes may not be the only changes coming as the White House attempts to respond to the spiking infections. Biden also said Tuesday that a vaccination requirement for all federal employees is under consideration.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs already has required its frontline health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

But the new recommendations on masks are expected to be met with resistance.

Areas of the country with the highest spikes in COVID-19 infections tend to be those with the lowest vaccination rates and places that were the fastest to end mask mandates for public settings.

Some have taken legal steps to prevent future mask mandates. At least nine states — Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Vermont — have enacted legislation that prohibits districts from requiring masks in schools, according to a CNN analysis.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, blasted the updated guidance in a statement Tuesday, describing it as “not grounded in reality or common sense.” Iowa’s level of community transmission is rated as “substantial” in the latest CDC map. 

“I’m concerned that this guidance will be used as a vehicle to mandate masks in states and schools across the country, something I do not support,” Reynolds said, adding that the vaccine “remains our strongest tool to combat COVID-19” and that she will continue to urge vaccinations.

Walensky sidestepped a question during Tuesday’s news briefing about the level of compliance that the CDC expects with the new recommendations, saying only that the way to drive down rising community transmission rates is to wear masks and to increase vaccination rates.

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Community

Train Derailment Near Hollywood Cemetery Again

This derailment occurred Friday afternoon. A train also derailed in the same vicinity on June 9th.

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All photos courtesy of RFD Twitter.

Posted by RFD Twitter on July 23rd

At approximately 1:26 p.m., crews responded to an area down the North Bank Trail near Hollywood Cemetery for the report of a train derailment. Once on scene, they found multiple freight cars that had been tipped over. The cars were carrying coal.
Some of the load spilled onto the track and ground in the area, but there was no coal in the water. No injuries reported. The incident was marked under control at 1:59 p.m. and turned over to CSX.

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Suspect Sought in West Clay Street Burglary

At approximately 4:57 p.m. on Thursday, June 24, the man in the photos climbed a wall in the rear of a house, located in the 00 block of West Clay Street, broke into the residence and stole a computer and credit cards.

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Richmond Police detectives are asking for the public’s help to identify the individual in the attached photos who is a suspect in a residential burglary that occurred in the Jackson Ward neighborhood last month.

At approximately 4:57 p.m. on Thursday, June 24, the man in the photos climbed a wall in the rear of a house, located in the 00 block of West Clay Street, broke into the residence and stole a computer and credit cards. A photo of his distinctive pink and black sneakers is also attached.

 

Anyone with information about the identity of this person is asked to call Fourth Precinct Detective J. Land at (804) 646-3103 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used. All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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