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Editorial: The Healing Begins

This statue is a symbol of oppression, and if it’s a symbol, it’s an idol, and if it’s an idol, I as a Christian am convinced that the idols must be torn down.

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This statue is a symbol of oppression, and if it’s a symbol, it’s an idol, and if it’s an idol, I as a Christian am convinced that the idols must be torn down.

These words were spoken by Reverend Rob W Lee, great-great-nephew of Confederate General Robert E Lee. His words carry weight with the family name. And with any family requests, any arguments afterwards are null and void.

With convincing words, the Reverend Lee set the course for healing. Along with Governor Northam’s order, motions were set to remove the Lee Monument. The next day, all votes from City Council were secured to remove all the Confederate Monuments per Mayor Stoney’s declaration.

It hasn’t been 2 weeks since George Floyd was murdered by police and the world feels different. Demonstrations and protests were met with violent resistance. Looting and destruction forced many businesses around the country to board their windows. Richmond was no different. Peaceful demonstrators were met with tear gas and pepper spray at the Lee and JEB Stuart monuments.

Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up
-James Baldwin

Finally, I had to chance to go see the Lee Statue for myself Friday afternoon. I was not able to join in the demonstrations for various reasons (we’re still in a pandemic) but felt the need to go see it with my own eyes and lens. Admittedly, there was some anxiety parking at a location that had experienced so much turmoil just a few days ago. As I walked across Monument, I heard folk tell a couple on a porch “I love y’all!” and all of sudden the trepidation melted. It felt like walking into a cathedral.

Acoustic guitar played notes over the air as the circle was neared. Crossing the circle, I was struck by the image of black mothers walking their children along and up the monument. Tents were set up with sealed bottles of water and cheerful people to give them out along with smiles and grace. Folk sat in lawn chairs soaking up the sun and moment while others ambled around, taking pictures. It felt… euphoric. It felt like a place where many can come together to gain peace

The removal of the statues will take time but it is a huge step.

Instead of an avenue of division, Monument Avenue can be a place where people come together. Instead of discord; harmony. Instead of scars; healing. Instead of the past; the future Instead of the past; love.

Once this pandemic is over, Monument Avenue will become a place where peace is exchanged, where bread is broken, where souls can be healed.

Between Boulevard and Belvidere on Monument, everyone is welcome into the sanctuary to join in on a future well worth embracing.

God didn’t make anybody to be a second-class citizen. Of this country, or the human family. I believe it because I believe that’s what the scripture teaches. And that is clearly what Jesus teaches. He says come into me all of you. He didn’t limit love. The dude, he got it.
– Presiding Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry

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Is a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in Padow's bacon.

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Music in the Park Returns

There will be two free concerts held at Forest Hill Park.

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Give Music in the Park a follow on Facebook to keep up to date on any possible changes.

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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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Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters on Friday at Forest Hill Park

The weather hasn’t been kind to this year’s Movies in the park hopefully we’ll luck out.

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This Friday night Richmond VA Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities is showing Ghostbusters (the original Bill Murray classic) at Forest Hill Park. Bring your blanket, snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. The movie starts when it’s dark enough.

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