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Free Covid-19 Testing Today at Regency Square

As of this morning, the Virginia Department of Health reports 4,515 new positive cases of the coronavirus in the Commonwealth and 63 new deaths as a result of the virus. VDH reports 496 new cases in and around Richmond (Chesterfield: 200, Henrico: 189, and Richmond: 107).

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Today’s the day – if you have symptoms of #COVID19 or have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 and want to get tested, come out to Regency Square and drive through the parking deck from 10am to 12pm. Learn more: vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/co

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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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Crime

New website aims to help untangle Virginia’s unsolved mysteries

The website, maintained by the State Police, is the result of a bill the General Assembly passed in 2020 at the request of Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, a former journalist who says she pushed for it out of a belief in “aggressive” public outreach and transparency.

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In 1982, Virginia Department of Corrections administrator Rodolfo Felix Guillen was shot to death one morning right after getting to his office in Suffolk. The shooting occurred just as other employees started to arrive at the building, but there were no signs anyone had broken in.

In 1984, off-duty Virginia State Police trooper Johnny Rush Bowman was killed after being stabbed 45 times in Prince William County, with the unknown assailant leaving behind a hardhat and a wig.

In 2003, then 20-year-old Rachel Nicole Good drove off in her Dodge Neon from a parking lot near a Shenandoah Valley laundromat, never to be seen again.

All three stories are among the dozens of unsolved murder and missing-person investigations listed in Virginia’s newly launched public database of cold cases.

The website, maintained by the State Police, is the result of a bill the General Assembly passed in 2020 at the request of Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, a former journalist who says she pushed for it out of a belief in “aggressive” public outreach and transparency.

“The cold case database will only work as intended if the public uses it, if the public shares it, if the public is engaged with it,” Roem said in an interview. “I am imploring people at large from all across the commonwealth and really across the country… to please give this thing a look over. See if there’s a story in your community that you know something about.”

The new site currently lists several dozen State Police cases, but it’s expected to grow once more information is gathered from local law enforcement agencies. 

The legislation creating the database passed unanimously two years ago after Roem told her colleagues the only thing it would do is potentially solve murders.

“These are people,” Roem said of the names and faces listed in the database. “People whose killers were never brought to justice, who had remains without a name attached to them, who went missing and haven’t been found. These are human beings. Let’s treat ’em like that. Let’s bump up some of these stories the public has forgotten about.”

A note on the website says cases are displayed randomly “to ensure all victims are publicized equally.” The legislation defined “cold case” as “an investigation into a homicide, missing person, or unidentified person case that has remained unsolved for at least five years.” The page for each case includes contact details showing how people who might have useful information can contact investigators.

“Because of the public accessibility of this,” Roem said, “you are quite literally empowering the public to help solve these crimes.”

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Education

Virginia Museum of History & Culture Offers Professional Development Programming for Educators

Primarily Virginia is an online course designed for K-12 teachers to explore Virginia’s past through objects and primary sources.

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As part of its summer programming, the Virginia Museum of History & Culture (VMHC) will offer a series of professional development workshops for teachers both in person and virtually.

Primarily Virginia is an online course designed for K-12 teachers to explore Virginia’s past through objects and primary sources. All course work is completed online and there is no required in person meetings. By participating in the online course, educators can earn up to 45 recertification points, and thanks to the generosity of the WestRock Foundation, the online course is free of charge to Virginia teachers. The course is offered three times a year and will begin on June 27th, 2022. Registration must be completed by June 25th.

The Weinstein Properties Story of Virginia Teachers Institute invites educators to participate in a weeklong program that examines Virginia’s history, government, and geography through exhibition tours, guest speakers, primary source analysis, and self-guided tours of the museum.

The program is offered twice each summer to both private and public school teachers of any grade level, with the first session beginning July 11th- July 15th . This session will cover general Virginia history, and registration information can be found here. The second session runs from July 25th-July 29th and will focus on the museum’s largest new exhibition, Our Commonwealth. Registration information for this session can be found here.

Each of the Weinstein Properties Summer Teachers Institutes are held at the Virginia Museum of History & culture and include a day-long field trip to the Robert Russa Moton Museum in Farmville, Virginia. The cost for each session is $50 which will be refunded upon completion of the class. Materials and lunch will also be provided free of charge and educators who participate will be eligible for recertification points.

The Virginia Museum of History & Culture is proud to serve as an aid and resource to educators in Virginia by offering updated content, structured training, and an open forum to share ideas. In addition to the Teachers Institute, the Virginia Museum of History & Culture will also be partnering with other cultural institutes to offer programming this summer for educators. A workshop entitled Power of the People: Engaging with American Democracy is being held at the museum on June 28th in partnership with the Library of Virginia. Registration information for this workshop can be found here. Educators are also encouraged to register for the August 10th & 11th workshop in partnership with five Richmond area museums, entitled Monumental Moments: Public Art and Public Memory.

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Community

James River Watch Allows River Users to “Know Before You Go”

Every summer since 2013, the James River Association (JRA) prepares for river season by recruiting volunteers all across the watershed to monitor water quality and release real-time results to the public on a weekly basis.

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Every summer since 2013, the James River Association (JRA) prepares for river season by recruiting volunteers all across the watershed to monitor water quality and release real-time results to the public on a weekly basis. Through these efforts, river-goers can stay informed about river conditions before they consider swimming, paddling, or boating on the James.

The program, called James River Watch, has expanded over the past eleven years since it first began, and JRA currently reports results from 35 locations along the river with the help of volunteers and partners. Approximately 90 volunteers have signed up to monitor water quality during the 2022 season, which runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day, in partnership with Rivanna Conservation Alliance, American Water, Virginia State University, Virginia Master Naturalist-Peninsula Chapter, Appomattox River Company and Twin River Outfitters.

James River Watch volunteers take water samples every Thursday to track measurements of water temperature, air temperature, turbidity (or cloudiness), conductivity (or saltiness) and bacteria. High levels of fecal coliform bacteria can indicate presence of pathogens harmful to human health, which can affect river user safety.

Each of these measurements are displayed and updated on Friday through the program’s online platform, along with additional stage and flow readings and predictions compiled from NOAA and USGS stream gauges. All together, the careful design of the James River Watch website acts as a quick and easy reference for river users to determine the latest river conditions by assimilating multiple data sources all in one place.

“Paddling, fishing, and swimming are common summer pastimes for the folks in the James River Watershed, but it’s important to be informed about river conditions to make sure you are being safe while out on the river,” said Erin Reilly, JRA’s Senior Staff Scientist. “James River Watch conveniently pulls that information together in one place. I personally use it all the time to plan my time at the river.”

During the 2021 river season, James River Watch revealed a 83% pass rate, with 9 sites passing 100% of the time. These sites included the Scottsville Boat Ramp, Tucker Park at Maidens Crossing, Robious Landing, Pony Pasture, Hopewell at Route 10, Jamestown Beach, College Creek Beach, Riverside Beach, and Hampton Marina.

Two sites, College Landing Park and Powhatan Creek, raised concern for JRA staff in 2021 due to high rates of failure. In seeking answers for these sites’ high failure rate, JRA staff are working with the Hampton Roads Sanitation District, the City of Williamsburg and James City County. Additional testing has made human sewage or leaky pipes an unlikely cause, and points to a more likely source as an upstream beaver dam or dog waste.

James River Watch is a reflection of JRA’s mission, which includes protecting the river and connecting people to the river. Along with water quality monitoring, JRA provides additional opportunities for community members to help keep the river healthy and reduce the amount of bacteria flowing to our waterways. River lovers can become a River Hero Home by pledging to adopt river-friendly behaviors at home, join JRA’s Action Network to raise their voices for clean water funding, or receive training to be a RiverRat, JRA’s first line of defense for patrolling potential pollution sources and other important river activity.

New for 2022, river users can sign up to receive an email each week after results are posted on the James River Watch website. To sign up and learn more, visit www.jamesriverwatch.org, or contact Erin Reilly, JRA Senior Staff Scientist, at [email protected].

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