Category Archives: Demographics

The Big Lie of Unequal Funding

by James A. Bacon

The Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) has unanimously adopted a statement regarding its commitment to provide equal access to a high-quality public education.

“Systemic racism and discrimination still exist in public education, and too often, a student’s skin color or socioeconomic status predicts the quality of their educational opportunities,” says the statement. The VBOE goes on to attribute the educational achievement gap between whites and “people of color” to unequal funding.

The current system of funding for our schools, codified as the Standards of Quality, has not resulted in meaningful changes in educational outcomes. In fact, in combined effect with the previously long-standing Standards of Accreditation, segregation in our schools has increased. We have seen resources, in terms of funding and personnel, migrate to schools and localities that disproportionately served fewer students of color. The result has been a recognized achievement gap that continues to persist.

There is one big problem with this statement. There is no meaningful black-white funding gap in Virginia. The VBOE provides no statistics whatsoever to back up its statement. Repetition of a falsehood does not make it true. Here are the average annual per-pupil expenditures for school operations across the state broken down by race/ethnicity:

From a statewide perspective, there is a funding gap in Virginia, but it’s between Asians and Hispanics on the one hand and blacks and whites on the other. If the BOE had restricted its claim to the existence of a white/black funding gap, not a gap between whites and “people of color,” it would have been on firmer ground, although that gap is barely more than one-tenth of one percent. Good luck trying to explain the educational achievement gap (which is very real) on a one-tenth of one percent difference in spending. Continue reading

BR’s COVID-19 Parallel Universe

By Peter Galuszka

Almost every morning, I wake up a little before dawn, make coffee, let the dog out and feed her and start reading the news.

I take The Washington Post in print along with The New York Times, Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Virginian-Pilot, NBC News, various television stations and, of course, Bacon’s Rebellion online.

Later in the morning, I check out Blue Virginia, Virginia Mercury and RVA.

When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, every morning I step into two different universes.

One gives me the global and national view that jumps right in and explains where we are with the virus and who and what are at risk.

The other view, that of Bacon’s Rebellion, mostly paints a very different picture. This view insists that the pandemic is exaggerated and overrated, needless regulations are being enacted by a dictatorial governor, our school system and housing trends are at risk and we should open everything up right now. Continue reading

The Systemic Racism of Monument Avenue

By Peter Galuszka

Richmond’s grand Monument Avenue, a double lane, tree lined thoroughfare, has been the epicenter of the Black Lives Matter campaign that has focused on the statues of several Confederate figures one the road, including Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Jefferson Davis.

All are up for removal, but the same foot-dragging that has for years protected the statues that some consider racist is at work today. Protestors have torn down Davis and have defaced the rest. On Sunday night, they nearly ripped down the Stuart statue as two city council members urged that it be removed on an emergency basis.

Lee’s statue has been ordered down by Gov. Ralph Northam, but the effort has been tied up in lawsuits by several property owners. One claims either that the original deed that gave the state the site for Lee included language that it could not be removed. Other plaintiffs, most anonymous,  claim that removing the statues would hurt their property values and their special tax status.

If anything smacks of white privilege and entitlement, this is it. But for more perspective, this article in The Atlantic neatly sums up the history behind the statues and the Avenue, noting that the issue has everything to do with rewriting Richmond’s history and making a marketing play to sell expensive and exclusive real estate decades after the Confederacy was suppressed. Continue reading

“Systemic Racism?” Damned Right!

By Peter Galuszka

There has been much debate on this blog regarding whether there is “systemic racism” in Virginia and the rest of the country.

It’s a crucial question in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed and handcuffed African American who was killed on video by a white Minneapolis police officer two weeks ago. The killing sparked nationwide demonstrations, some rioting and a big rethink of race relations.

Regarding is “system racism,” my answer in a resounding “yes” although I agree there has been significant progress in race relations since the since the 1960s.

A few examples:

  • Virginia was the embarkation point for American’s first slaves.
  • Slavery was a key social, economic and political institution for several hundred years.
  • The Civil War was fought over slavery. Most battles were in Virginia.
  • The state embraced Jim Crow laws and kept them for years. These made it crimes for people of different races to go to school together, go on public transit together, sit together in restaurants, get married and so on.
  • There were plenty of lynchings in Virginia. Many went unpunished.

Continue reading

Federal Action Should Clarify COVID-19 Racial Impact

by Carol J. Bova

Discussion of the percentage of black COVID-19 hospitalized patients in Virginia is based on the known racial identification of all COVID-19 cases. The breakdown of all cases shows this is a false narrative. We don’t know what the true racial percentages are because currently 32% of all COVID-19 cases have no racial identification.

From here forward, that problem should be reduced by new federal guidance announced on June 4 requiring labs to report demographic data like race, ethnicity, age, and sex.

Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced new guidance that specifies what additional data must be reported to HHS by laboratories along with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) test results. The Guidance standardizes reporting to ensure that public health officials have access to comprehensive and nearly real-time data to inform decision making in their response to COVID-19. As the country begins to reopen, access to clear and accurate data is essential to communities and leadership for making decisions critical to a phased reopening.

Continue reading

The Real Danger with ANTIFA

By Peter Galuszka

Get ready. The names of all kinds of leftist organizations are going to be kicked around as the masterminds behind violent, cop-beating looters, especially the so-called ANTIFA movement in Virginia and across the country..

But what is reality? I don’t have clear answers but I have some ideas to share since I have been dealing with activist groups since I was in high school in the late 1960s. I hope they help this blog’s discussion.

First, there’s plenty of research available about ANTIFA and there are already plenty of reports about it. It is not a single group but a very loose collection of autonomous activist groups, most of which do not advocate violence. For reference, see yesterday’s Daily Beast piece with the blunt headline, “Trump’s ‘ANTIFA Threat Is Total Bullshit – And Totally Dangerous.”

That article and plenty of others note that ANTIFA, or whatever it is, has no clear chain of command and uses ultra-fast social media to alert other activists about rallies and protests but has no control over them. If you are thinking about the tightly-controlled and secretive Communist cells of the past century, you are not getting it. Continue reading

Construction: Virginia’s Quiet, Strong Man

Scene from Micron’s $3 billion construction project in Manassas. Photo credit: Inside NoVa

By Peter Galuszka

For all the complaints about the COVID-19 pandemic in Virginia – the shut-down restaurants and (temporarily) closed beaches – one industry has been working steadily and quietly all along – the state’s construction sector.

Builders haven’t missed much of a beat since the “state at home” orders started going out a couple of months ago.

In Pentagon City, works still progresses on the two, 22-story towers for Amazon’s new eastern headquarters. In suburban Chesterfield County near Richmond, workers toil adding new drain pipes and four-laning once- rural roads. Four-story apartments overlooking Swift Creek Reservoir are taking shape for the over-55 crowd.

At a loud and garish protest next to the State Capitol against Gov. Ralph Norham’s work-stoppage plans last month, Mark Carter, a contractor from Hanover County, made his views known. “We‘re still working,” he told me. “I’m not for Trump and I’m not a Democrat. People need to work.”

In Virginia, some are. After all, New York state and Boston stopped construction work due to the pandemic. Continue reading

Flight from New York

Source: New York Times. Click for larger image.

“New York is a great place to live, but I wouldn’t want to ride out a deadly viral epidemic there.” That pretty much sums up the attitude of tens of thousands of Gothamites — mostly of the wealthier sort — who have fled the city during the onset of the COVID-19 tribulations. In March, the U.S. Post Office received 56,000 mail-forwarding requests from New York City, more than double the monthly average. In April the number of requests reached 81,000, reports the New York Times

More than 60% of the forwarding requests were for destinations outside the city. Many people fled to nearby areas in Long Island, New Jersey and upstate New York. Otherwise, the Washington metropolitan area was the third most popular out-of-region destination, following the Miami and Philadelphia metros.

No speculation from the NYT regarding how many might have carried the coronavirus with them — although it may not be total coincidence that the Washington metro has the highest incidence per capita of COVID-19 infection in Virginia.


Uh, Oh…

by Dean Wortmier

Because the panacea bonfire of the “New Abbott Labs Test” is being stoked, I have been forced to revive some brain cells that have been comfortably soaking up rum for the past 8 years.

How much help is testing for CoV2 going to be in deciding to ‘Open Up’ Virginia?

Let’s use Abbott’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) application[1] for our Gold Standard.

From the tests that Abbott submitted to get the EUA, the 95% confidence interval for the Probability of Detection, Pd, of the virus is (94.0, 100), greater than 94 but less than 100.  Moreover, the document tells us that the 95% confidence interval for the Probability of a False Alarm, Pfa, is (0, 11).

Pretty impressive, well, impressive enough to secure a EUA to soak up $Billions of taxpayer money, but is really going to help with decisions to end the quarantine measures for Virginia? (Did you see how I kept it relevant to Bacon’s Rebllion’s blog?) Remember, we’re making an executive decision that could cost granny her life. Continue reading

COVID-19 Update: Time to Re-Evaluate Usefulness of “Confirmed Cases” Statistic

by James A. Bacon

The latest Virginia Department of Health (VDH) data continues to look alarming: 562 new reported cases yesterday, 75 new hospitalizations, and 27 new deaths. However, I’m sticking by my argument that the epidemic in Virginia is close to peaking. Here’s the nub of my argument, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is bifurcating from other data sets measuring the spread of the disease. I am questioning whether it is even a meaningful figure anymore.

Steve Haner has pointed me to an ABC News article which makes the point that COVID-19 infection is far more prevalent than indicated by officially recorded tests. Recent community testing in Santa Clara County suggest that the actual number of infections is 50 to 80 times higher than the original numbers. A Wall Street Journal op-ed today makes the same point.

If those same ratios apply to Virginia, the number of actual COVID-19 infections, as opposed to officially confirmed infections, could stand around 400,000 to 500,000. Of those, fewer than 1,300 have been hospitalized and only 258 have died. Those are tiny percentages, not much different from a typical influenza season. The bifurcation in trend lines can be seen in this graph showing new confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths reported by the VDH: Continue reading

COVID-19 Update: Yup, the Virus Has Plateaued

One hundred and ninety-nine COVID-19 patients were discharged from Virginia hospitals yesterday, exceeding the 66 patients admitted, according to the latest data from the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA). The excess of discharges over admissions represents a major milestone in the fight against the deadly disease.

Perhaps it is time for Governor Ralph Northam to declare victory and move on. His draconian social-distancing policies are working. The spread of the COVID-19 virus has plateaued. He has “flattened the curve.” The number of confirmed cases in Virginia is still increasing, but at a steady rate, not an exponential rate. Hospitals are not at any near-time risk of running out of beds, ICUs or ventilators. Indeed, even the shortage of personal protective equipment may be easing. By the latest VHHA count, only six hospitals reported that they expected difficulty in replenishing their supplies over the next 72 hours.

But rather than take the opportunity to trim the rules that have tanked Virginia’s economy, delayed elective procedures, and restricted the liberties of its citizens, the Governor announced yesterday that he would extend them another two weeks to May 9. I’ll say more about that in an upcoming column. In the meantime, let’s look at the latest numbers.

COVID-19 spread

Total tests: 46,444, up 2,275
Total confirmed cases: 6.889, up 389 from the previous day
% tests positive: 17.1% yesterday
Total hospitalizations: 1,114, up 66 from the previous day
Total deaths: 208, up 13
Total hospital discharges: 951, up 199

Continue reading

COVID-19 Update: The Curve Has Flattened

Sure looks to me like the curve is bending in Virginia, just as it appears to be around the world. The latest data from the Virginia Department of Health indicates 329 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 yesterday, less than the number eleven days ago. That’s consistent with what the Johns Hopkins University data is showing for the U.S. as a whole and for many other countries around the world.

The chart above, contributed by John Butcher, suggests that the spread of the virus in Virginia is peaking — assuming, of course, that current social-distancing controls stay in place. If we relax the measures, we can expect the epidemic to regain momentum. But the news is encouraging enough that Virginia public health authorities need to begin thinking about how to dial back social-distancing mandates on the margin in order to ease the devastating toll on the economy and restrictions on individual freedoms.

Here is our daily data summary:

COVID-19 spread

Total tests: 44,168, up 1,406
Total confirmed cases: 6.500, up 329 from the previous day
% tests positive: 23.4% yesterday
Total hospitalizations: 1,048, up 70 from the previous day
Total deaths: 195, up 41
Total hospital discharges: 752, up 31

Continue reading

COVID-19 Update: Are We Leveling Off?

The latest data from the Virginia Department of Health, reported this morning, is consistent with the notion that the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Virginia is nearing a peak. The graph above, produced by John Butcher, does a much better job of showing the trend than any of the graphics I’ve been creating. So, as much as I love rendering infographics with kittens, puppies and babies in them, I will henceforward publish John’s graph atop this daily update.

It’s too early to say that the number of COVID-19 infections is leveling out, but it seems pretty clear that the rate of increase is no longer exponential. My main reservation is the quality of data. Results for only 1,362 tests were reported from yesterday. Why so few? That’s down from more than 2,000 tests daily last week. Is Virginia’s health system running fewer tests as time goes by? Or does this puny number reflect delays in the collection and reporting of the numbers?

Whatever the case, here is today’s roundup of the disease spread and hospital capacity from the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association COVID-19 dashboards.

COVID-19 spread

Total tests: 42,763, up 1,362
Total confirmed cases: 6,171, up 424 from the previous day
% tests positive: 31.1% yesterday
Total hospitalizations: 978, up 75 from the previous day
Total deaths: 154, up six
Total hospital discharges: 721, up 264

Continue reading

Right Wing Uses Virus To Stifle Needed Reforms

Statue of Gov. Harry F. Byrd on the state capitol grounds.

By Peter Galuszka

Right-wingers in Virginia have been apoplectic for months that Democrats finally captured the General Assembly after years of Republican control.

They also were enraged that the legislature this winter passed a number of reforms that would draw Virginia into the 21st Century such raising the minimum wage, boosting collective bargaining, tightening rules on carbon pollution and raising taxes for cigarettes, a deadly product.

Now such conservatives are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to throttle or delay such needed reforms. They have banded into groups such as the Coalition fort a Strong Virginia Economy. They have used the Virginia Municipal League’s complaints against the reforms, claiming they cost too much, as a way to derail new measures.

According to the left-leaning blog site Blue Virginia, one of the more extreme advocates for scrambling changes is Dave LaRock, a far-right Republican delegate from Loudoun County. A pronounced gay-basher, LaRock wants to squelch all of the reforms made by the more progressive General Assembly. Continue reading

Thank God for Medicaid Expansion

By Peter Galuszka

For years after the Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare,” made millions of federal dollars available for states to expand Medicaid health coverage, Virginia Republicans steadfastly blocked Virginia from using the money.

Led by former House Speaker Bill Howell and Sen. Tommy Norment, the GOP claimed that expanding Medicaid to nearly 400,000 people would be too expensive and would blow out state funding.

This skinflint approach was finally put to rest after Democrat Ralph Northam became governor in 2018, foreshadowing a Democratic sweep of the General Assembly in elections last year.

Thank God the Democrats prevailed.

Virginia’s formerly robust economy has been shattered by the COVID 19 pandemic. Last week, some 110,000 Virginians filed for unemployment support. It was 46,277 the week before.

Who covers them is an open question but many would qualify for Medicaid. Expansion has boosted lower-income Virginians so that they may be able to better ride out the pandemic. Continue reading