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Lawmakers advance bills to compensate first responders hit by COVID-19

Virginia lawmakers have passed bills that allow certain first responders to file workers’ compensation benefits for being disabled from COVID-19, but still need to reach agreement on some differences.

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By Sam Fowler

Virginia lawmakers have passed bills that allow certain first responders to file workers’ compensation benefits for being disabled from COVID-19, but still need to reach agreement on some differences.

The measures would make COVID-19 an occupational disease for firefighters, emergency medical services personnel and law enforcement or correctional officers and allow these individuals to file for workers’ compensation benefits.

 The workers’ dependents also would be eligible for benefits if the workers die from COVID-19. Occupational diseases arise out of and in the course of employment, according to state law, and include hepatitis, meningococcal meningitis, tuberculosis or HIV.

Senate Bill 1375, sponsored by Sen. Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, and House Bill 2207, introduced by Del. Jay Jones, D- Norfolk, had mostly unanimous support..

The main difference is that the House bill would extend the compensation to regional jail officers. The Senate also rejected an amendment by the House that would allow compensation for cases going back to March 2020. The bills would apply to persons diagnosed with COVID-19 on or after July 1, and whose death or disability from COVID-19 occurred on or after that same date, Del. Kaye Kory, D-Falls Church said in an email. She is the Senate bill’s House patron.

The workers and their dependents must meet certain requirements to be eligible for workers compensation. The bill provides that the COVID-19 virus is established by a positive diagnostic test, along with an incubation period consistent with COVID-19 and symptoms of COVID-19 that require medical treatment.

The bill would add COVID-19 to the work-related diseases that would prevent certain first responders or corrections officers from working and would cause them to lose their income, Kory said.

“In this time of pandemic emergency, our first responders are likely to be exposed to the coronavirus on the job, and should be protected if exposed to this dangerous virus,” Kory said in a statement. “I believe that adding this unemployment eligibility condition to the other work-related disabling conditions in our Code is the fair and just thing to do.”

It would cost an estimated $2.5 million to $3.3 million to implement the Senate legislation, according to a Senate Finance and Appropriations committee held in early February. The House bill would cost significantly more if it allowed compensation for cases going back to March 2020.

There was some opposition to Jones’ bill during a January House subcommittee meeting. Jeremy Bennett, director of intergovernmental affairs at the Virginia Association of Counties, which seeks to represent the interests of counties in the state, urged legislators to vote against the House bill. He said local governments and risk insurance providers haven’t budgeted for additional payments that the new law would require. The bill should only be approved if the state provides local governments with additional funding.

Lawmakers agreed Friday to a conference committee to resolve legislative differences.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Community

Historic Slave Trail at Ancarrow’s Landing Closed for Bridge Work

The closure is to work on bridges.

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From RVA Trail Report

The Historic Slave Trail at Ancarrow’s Landing will be temporarily closed while the Trail Crew rebuilds the three worn bridges along the river. Please follow the detour signs during this time.

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Community

Pipeline Update Work Continues

The hope is that work will finish up at the end of this month. Work is taking longer than expected.

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From RVAH20:

Our work continues! It’s progressing! And it’s slower than we thought it was going to be.

Our team is doing detailed, meticulous work with an abundance of care, and doing it right! They’ve also faced some less-than-ideal weather and river levels that were too high.

Our crew is essentially papier-mâché-ing a 43.13″ diameter elevated pipe located in the James River (one of our more tricky, but also more beautiful, work locations) with layers on layers of mesh and more mesh and different sized mesh and epoxy. Before all that, our crews clean each pipe segment with acetone wipes to allow for excellent adherence.

Most importantly, we are SO sorry for the delayed repair process at Pipeline–we know no one likes an elongated trail closure, but we can’t rush this important work.

We appreciate your patience as we complete these repairs to protect the James River and your health and safety when you visit this spot so many of us favor!
The latest we heard was a hope that repairs would be complete by the end of this month. We will keep you updated as we move toward that end-of-October target!
Following the completion of the repairs, our team will once again CCTV (closed-circuit television) the pipe to get an internal look. Only after we check our work and give it the green light will the trail and beaches alongside it be reopened. Until then, Pipeline trail and its adjacent beaches are closed from Brown’s Island (under the 9th Street bridge) to the downstream, eastern end of the trail behind Virginia Street and Vistas On The James.
And, finally, an important reminder: all wastewater flows have been diverted upstream at Tredegar, so any flow you may see leaking at Pipeline currently is river water that’s seeping in from Haxall Canal, groundwater, and/or stormwater from rainfall.

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Downtown

Carmela’s Turning Off Pizza Ovens for Good

Carmela has been serving up pizza in Shockoe Bottom for the past three years.

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Posted to Facebook yesterday:

To our dearest customers, after careful consideration, we have decided to close our doors. We like to express our deepest gratitude to you all for your support and love for Carmela’s pizza over the past 3 years!
We like to thank our whole Carmela’s team, past and present. We’re so proud of what we’ve accomplished together and couldn’t have done it without your talent and great effort of everyone involved!!
We’re just incredibly thankful for the opportunity to have opened such a beautiful pizzeria. This may not be a goodbye forever, but for now, it’s the right choice for our family.
Thank you again for the sweet memories and for allowing us to serve you RVALots of love,
Victor & Melinda
Carmela’s
Carmela’s was located on 3 N 17th Street.

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