By Will Gonzalez
Though the federal government is asking states to prepare for the possibility of a COVID-19 vaccine within months, some Virginians differ on whether the vaccine should be mandatory when it becomes available.
Virginia Freedom Keepers, a nonprofit that advocates for medical freedom, gathered in Richmond last week for a “March Against Mandates,” in protest of the statewide mask mandate, as well as a potential vaccine mandate, in response to COVID-19. The Virginia General Assembly is currently holding a special session to discuss the budget, along with COVID-19 and criminal justice reform measures.
Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver said in a recent interview with ABC-8 (WRIC-TV), that if he is still Virginia’s acting Health Commissioner when a COVID-19 vaccine is made available, he will make immunization mandatory.
“It is killing people now, we don’t have a treatment for it and if we develop a vaccine that can prevent it from spreading in the community we will save hundreds and hundreds of lives,” Oliver said.
Gov. Ralph Northam’s office did not back up the health commissioner’s statement. Northam’s administration told WRIC it had “taken no official policy position on whether or not a COVID-19 vaccine for adults should be mandatory.” Northam’s office did not respond to a request for comment from Capital News Service. According to the Virginia Department of Health press office, when Dr. Oliver spoke in support of a mandate for a future COVID-19 vaccine, he was “sharing his personal opinion as a physician.”
Virginia law currently gives the health commissioner the authority to issue a mandate for a vaccine in the case of an epidemic. The law allows doctors to exempt people from vaccination if their health would be negatively affected. A. E. Dick Howard, a professor of international law at the University of Virginia, says this statute must be read in light of the state constitution, which states the commonwealth’s executive power is vested in the governor, meaning it’s unlikely that Oliver would have the final word.
“This provision is meant to focus both authority and responsibility of the governor. It therefore argues against the splintering of authority in the executive branch,” Howard said in an email.
The current language exempts those with a note written by a doctor, but two Virginia delegates wanted to exempt people who object to vaccination on religious grounds.
HB 5070, introduced by Del. Dave LaRock, R-Loudoun, and HB 5016, introduced by Del. Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg, have similar wording. The two bills, which were tabled during the special session, would have eliminated the health commissioner’s authority to enforce a vaccination mandate for people who object due to religious beliefs.
“I am concerned that there is such a rush to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, that normal safety and effectiveness testing may be bypassed, leading to the distribution of a vaccine that has not been fully tested,” Cole said in an email. “Who knows what the health consequences of short-circuiting the process may be?”
LaRock did not respond to a request for comment about his bill. Cole said constituents concerned about a mandatory vaccine asked him to introduce HB 5016, and that “religious beliefs” in the bill incorporates any belief system, including secularism.
“I am old enough to remember the Swine Flu scare more than 40 years ago. President Ford started a program of public vaccinations to protect people from it,” Cole said. “I received the vaccine when I was in college.”
In 1976, a swine flu outbreak in New Jersey led President Gerald Ford to issue a nationwide immunization program, according to the Los Angeles Times. Of the 40 million Americans who received the vaccine around 500 are suspected to have contracted Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disorder that damages nerve cells and causes paralysis in some cases.
“No one should be forced to take a vaccine. Every vaccine has some health risks associated with it; they may be relatively minor, but they are there,” Cole said. “Vaccines that have been tested and found to be effective and safe should be offered to the public, and I am confident that most people will take advantage of it, including myself.”
In 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled states have the authority to regulate for the protection of the public and a community has the right to protect itself against an “epidemic of disease,” regardless of one’s political or religious objections, according to the National Constitution Center. The ruling allowed the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts to fine residents who refused to receive smallpox injections. According to Howard, in the case of a mandatory vaccine, the court ruled that states may create an exemption based on religion but are not obliged to do so.
“Thus, the question of what qualifies as a religious exemption depends on how a statute is drafted and interpreted,” Howard said.
Island Shrimp Co. opening in former Conch Republic space at Rocketts Landing next March
A second location of the HOUSEpitality Family concept is set to open this spring.
Local restaurant group HOUSEpitality Family announced that it will open its second Island Shrimp Co. location at Rocketts Landing in March 2022.
The restaurant will be located next to The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing in the space that was formerly occupied by Conch Republic. The first Island Shrimp Co., also known as ISCo, location opened in 2019 at Chesterfield Towne Center. The new location will offer the flavors of the tropics for a city-inspired port-to-plate experience in an artistic seaside environment.
“We’re looking forward to adding another HOUSEpitality Family concept at Rocketts Landing, an area that has been special to us since we opened The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing in 2009,” said Kevin Healy, owner of HOUSEpitality Family restaurant group. “At the time, The Boathouse was the first restaurant to utilize the riverfront location along the James and our whole team is excited that the second location of Island Shrimp Co. will be right on the water.”
Menu items will include favorites like garlic shrimp, lumpia and lobster and shrimp fried rice and the drink menu will feature beach-inspired cocktails like the hurricane, painkiller, mojito and the ISCO-original Blue Typhoon.
Island Shrimp Co. at Rocketts Landing will offer an ambiance that marries city and seaside. Like the original Island Shrimp Co., HOUSEpitality Family considered the full dining experience and will incorporate several Instagram-ready photo opportunities when developing the space.
Island Shrimp Co. is currently hiring for a number of positions, including lead cooks, line cooks, servers, bartenders, hosts, dishwashers and support staff. Those interested in applying for a position at the new Island Shrimp Co. can visit www.growwiththefam.com.
Mending Walls Artwork Stolen
Stealing this art makes no sense and just seems to be a hurtful act.
Spotted on the Mending Walls Facebook.
Mending Walls has been about bringing people together through creative means. It is baffling that someone would try to silence this conversation.
Our purpose is to inspire empathy and connection. We were very excited to invite you all to see the final display created by the wonderful local artist who we’ve been highlighting over the last couple of weeks in collaboration with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (Richmond, VA)
The art was installed on November 17th and by the morning of the 18th artwork work was missing without a trace.
Events like this assures us that our work and purpose is causing change.
“If your voice had no power, they would not try to silence you.”
Mending Walls is a public art project that brings together public artists from different cultures and backgrounds to create murals that address where we are now in society and how we can move forward through understanding and collaboration. They’re responsible for many of the iconic murals you see in town.
What’s Going Down in Downtown for the Holidays
This extensive list was provided by Venture Richmond. The fun starts this weekend with the biggie RVA Illuminates on Friday, December 3, 5:45PM at Kanawha Plaza,
Venture Richmond has compiled a list of activities to plan your holidays Downtown with family and friends, so be sure to check our website for updates throughout November and December.
Craft + Design 2021
Friday-Sunday, November 19-21 at Main Street Station, 1500 E. Main St.
Now in its 57th year, Craft + Design is a museum-quality show that has garnered a reputation for showcasing the finest in contemporary craft. Shoppers spend the weekend browsing the work of artists from all over the country. Awards are presented in ceramics, precious metals, glass, wood and recycled materials, contemporary design, innovative use of traditional craft materials and fiber. Fee for tickets. https://www.visarts.org/events/craft-design-show/
Shop Small Saturday
Saturday, November 27, 11AM-6PM, in Downtown RVA
Visit Downtown RVA and support the local shops and small businesses like Little Nomad, Verdalina, Someday, Maven Made, Shockoe Bottom Clay and more for Shop Small Saturday, a nationally celebrated shopping holiday that highlights local and small business owners! To read more about shopping downtown, visit https://venturerichmond.com/explore-downtown/shopping/
Richmond Symphony presents Let It Snow!
Saturday, November 27, 8PM at Dominion Energy Center, 600 E. Grace St.
It’s Richmond’s favorite holiday musical tradition – now on Thanksgiving weekend! Celebrate the season with family, friends and the Richmond Symphony at the Carpenter Theatre. Carols, classics and sparkling holiday favorites – even a visit from Santa! Conducted by Chia-Hsuan. Fee for tickets.
Friday, December 3, 5:45PM at Kanawha Plaza, 801 E. Canal St.
A time-honored Richmond tradition will continue in 2021! See RVA shine when the switch is flipped ON to light up downtown’s skyline for the 2021 holiday season at 6:00pm. RVA Illuminates is back in-person this year with ABC8 News airing live complete coverage of performances, uplifting stories, and the official lighting. Be sure to join in the festive fun by lighting up your own storefronts and homes too! This event is coordinated by the City of Richmond Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities. Free event.
Christmas Under the Clocktower
Friday, December 3, 7PM at Main Street Station, 1500 E. Main St.
The second annual event where local nonprofits show off their creativity by designing Christmas trees! Vote for your favorite in-person or online December 3-December 19. Free event.
RVA First Friday
Friday, December 3, 5-11PM in downtown’s Arts District along Broad Street
Show Broad Street some love and holiday spirit when you explore galleries, shops, restaurants, nonprofits and more on the first Friday of every month at RVA First Friday along and around Broad Street. Free to attend, fees for shopping. https://www.facebook.com/events/223796113036927
Christmas Eve with C.S. Lewis
December 3-12 at Dominion Energy Center, 600 E. Grace St.
In this festive production, viewers find C.S. Lewis at his home near Oxford on Christmas Eve hosting a group of Americans who are Christmassing in England. They are about to experience an unforgettable assortment of Yuletide recollections which stimulates a whole range of emotions – curiosity, laughter, gladness and even some tears. Above all, they will discover how an encounter with JRR Tolkien forever changed Lewis’s Christmas celebrations. Fee for tickets.
Dominion Energy Christmas Parade
Saturday, December 4, starts at the Science Museum of Virginia at 10:15AM, travels eastbound on Broad St., ends at 7th and Marshall Sts. downtown
Welcome back the Dominion Energy Christmas Parade for its 38th annual parade celebration featuring colorful floats, giant helium balloons, high school and college marching bands, princesses, superheroes and returning favorites including the trademark Wells Fargo stagecoach, the VCU Peppas and Legendary Santa! The parade also airs LIVE on WTVR CBS6. Free event. Rain or shine.
Richmond Symphony presents A Baroque Holiday
Saturday, December 4, 7:30PM at the Dominion Energy Center, 600 E. Grace St.
The greatest story ever told. The most majestic music ever conceived. Be there for the greatest moments from Handel’s Messiah with the Richmond Symphony, Richmond Symphony Chorus, and soloists. Plus, other Baroque classics to brighten your holiday musical celebration. Fee for tickets.
Richmond Makers Market: Holiday Cheers
Sunday, December 5, 12-6PM at Basic City Beer Co., 212 W. 6th St.
This Makers Market features new makers monthly ranging from candlemakers and crafters to confections and works of clay. Head to Manchester’s Basic City Beer Co., a dog-friendly brewery, for an afternoon of shopping and supporting local RVA makers.
Movies on Brown’s Island: Elf
Saturday, December 11, 5:30PM on Brown’s Island, 500 Tredegar St.
Movies on Brown’s Island, presented by Dominion Energy, is an outdoor family activity, brought to you by Venture Richmond Events. Pack your chair or blanket, bring a picnic dinner, then find your perfect spot on Brown’s Island and enjoy an evening featuring Elf while taking in the stunning views of the James River and Downtown’s holiday skyline.
Seating is first come, first served. Bringing blankets and/or chairs for comfort is recommended. No seating will be provided. Vendors for the event include Strawberry Street Events and Espresso-A-Go-Go. No pets are allowed on premises during the movies. Parking is available at the Belle Isle parking lot and on-street parking is available along 2nd and 5th Streets. Gates open at 5PM; Show starts at 5:45PM. Tickets are $5 per person (ages 5 and under no ticket needed) and can be purchased in advance online or at the gate. https://venturerichmond.com/our-events/movies-on-browns-island/
Richmond Boat Parade of Lights
Saturday, December 11, 5:30PM along downtown’s riverfront, best views from Libby Hill Park in Church Hill and at Rocketts Landing
Each year, boaters decorate their boats and converge on the James River for a parade that marks the beginning of the holiday season. Grab the family and gather at one of the several viewing sites to see the boats and enjoy holiday entertainment. Free event.
Richmond Night Market
Saturday, December 11, 5-9PM at 17th Street Market, 100 N. 17th St.
Richmond Night Market is a monthly, open-air night market held at the 17th Street Market and features a family-friendly experience filled with music, programming, and independent artists and vendors. Shop the local artists and support the Shockoe Bottom restaurants too. Entertainment and programming include live music and cultured and diverse activities for all ages! Free to attend, fees for vendors. https://www.richmondnightmarketva.com/
Richmond Ballet’s The Nutcracker
December 11-23 at the Dominion Energy Center, 600 E. Grace St.
The Nutcracker makes its triumphant return this 2021 holiday season! Accompanied by the Richmond Symphony, Clara and her adoring Nutcracker, the glittering butterfly and dancing Russian bear will once again charm audience members of all ages. This is the final opportunity to see this version of our beloved production before it’s reimagined for 2022. Fee for tickets.
Winter Wander: Celebrate Court End
Sunday, December 12, noon-4PM at The Valentine, 1015 E. Clay St.
Save the date and join The Valentine for some winter cheer on their picturesque block of East Clay Street! There will be hot beverages, family crafts and games, and live music. You can also take a self-guided tour of the historic Court End neighborhood and hop on a shuttle to visit nearby cultural sites for open houses and other activities. Free event.
A Black Christmas in Jackson Ward
Saturday, December 18, noon-7PM at 10 E. Leigh Street
Join RVA Black Farmer’s Market and The Exclusive Blacklist as they present a merry time celebrating the holiday season with a vendor market, food vendors and live music happening in the heart of the Jackson Ward neighborhood. Free to attend, fee for vendors.
Continued updates and potential schedule changes can be found on Venture Richmond’s website: