Tag Archives: COVID-19

Where Have All the Heart Attacks Gone?

by Carol J. Bova

The Johns Hopkins University News-Letter published an article earlier this month asking, “Where have all the heart attacks gone?” The study questioned whether the U.S. COIVD-19 death rates are being overstated by omitting deaths usually attributed to attacks and cancer. The study was pulled four days later.

Dr. Genevieve Briand, the assistant director for the MS in Applied Economics Program at Hopkins, spoke at a webinar Nov. 11 on “COVID-19 Deaths–A Look at U.S. Data.” She meticulously detailed the facts she used and the conclusion she reached. The hour-long webinar can be viewed here.

Briand showed where and how to access the data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). She discussed the annual patterns of deaths in the United States and the reported number of COVID-19 deaths in relation to those annual patterns from 2014 through September, 2020.

Every year, there are recurring peaks and lows in death numbers that apply to all causes of death. She said that because of the emphasis on COVID-19, other major causes of death are being understated. She showed the percentage of total deaths by age categories and how there was no significant increase in deaths of older Americans. Continue reading

School Culture, Volunteerism and COVID-19

Substitute teacher Anna Kimerer teaches from a cart carrying musical instruments and supplies.

by James A. Bacon

In Washington County, down by the border with Tennessee, Emory & Henry College students are helping to fill gaps in the ranks of local school teachers by volunteering as substitutes. Writes the Bristol Herald-Courier:

Emory & Henry senior Aleah Bowers actually quit her job at a local grocery store to help answer the need for substitutes in Washington County schools.

“I’m substituting about four days each week,” said Bowers, who plans to take the jobs through the Christmas holiday. She also hopes to substitute next semester while she is student teaching.

“I’ve been all over Washington County as a substitute. I actually love it. Not only do I get to interact with the students, but I get more experience as a teacher.”

Continue reading

VDH’s Data Update Problem

by Carol J. Bova

Governor Ralph Northam and Virginia’s public health officials say they want to “follow the science” and “follow the data” when managing the COVID-19 lockdown. Unfortunately, the data keeps changing.

Last week the Virginia Department of Health made 1,021 changes to the dataset of regional COVID-19 cases by onset date between March and October — adding 1,361 cases to the total. Forty-five percent of the dataset’s 2,258 regional entries from February through October were changed. The VDH dashboard has no footnotes explaining why the changes were made or the source of the new data. Continue reading

Chesapeake: Putting Kids First

by Kerry Dougherty

Here’s something to be grateful for during Thanksgiving week 2020: If you believe education is important, give thanks for Jared Cotton, superintendent of Chesapeake Public Schools.

Despite enormous pressure to close classrooms and send 40,000 kids home to turn into overweight, mouth-breathing computer-screen addicts, he’s keeping the Chesapeake schools open, despite rising COVID-19 cases.

Best of all, he has the unanimous support of the Chesapeake School Board.

Refreshing. Educators putting kids first are uncommon these days. Last week Virginia Beach schools went back to remote learning. Continue reading

COVID Accelerates the National Dumbing Down

by James A. Bacon

Drawing upon testing of 5.3 million students in all 50 states this fall, the Renaissance testing service found that students in some grades had fallen 7 weeks behind expectations for reading and as many as 12 weeks behind for math.  Continue reading

Governor Northam: Do You Believe in Miracles?

by DJ Rippert

Come out with your masks on, we’ve got you surrounded. COVID-19 new cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise in Virginia. However, the situation is not as dire in Virginia as elsewhere in the United States (see graphic above). At 229 new cases per million people Virginia is well below all neighboring jurisdictions. Kentucky at 814 per million tops the list of sick neighbors while D.C. at 302 is the second most healthy in our immediate vicinity. The question for Virginia’s governor Ralph Northam is, “Do you believe in miracles?” Or, perhaps somewhat less charitably, “Are you feeling lucky, punk?” Whether one prefers the Hot Chocolate version or the Dirty Harry version, we are in an interesting situation. Do we dare hope that Virginia will miraculously avoid the surge that is consuming most other states? Or, do we assume it is inevitable that we end up in the same situation as Kentucky, et al and start serious COVID abatement efforts (e.g. lockdown and partial lockdowns) now?

Continue reading

Reopen Public Schools or Provide Education Choice

by Vicky Manning

When I was elected to serve on the Virginia Beach School Board in 2016, I never imagined there would be a time when I would have to fight to keep our school doors open. However, that is what I have been doing for the last 6 months.

The last day of in-person learning was Friday March 13th. At that time I felt the right measures were being taken to “flatten the curve.” However, as the months of school closures continued, I questioned the toll it was taking on our students.

I have been pushing since June to get our schools prepared to safely return our students. Elementary students and grades 6 & 9 were finally phased back into in-person learning around the beginning of October. The plan was for all other grades – 7,8,10,11,12 – to return last week under a plan for 2 days-a-week learning by splitting the students alphabetically by last name. Half of those students went back to school for 2 days last week, but if you were unlucky enough to fall into the A-L last name category, you got the plug pulled when the announcement was made by the Superintendent to return all students to virtual learning. Those students have not been in a classroom since March 13th. Continue reading

Public School Accountability Compromised Again

James F. Lane, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction

by James A. Bacon

Having scrapped the Standards of Learning (SOL) exams for Virginia public school students during the COVID-19 spike last spring, the Virginia Department of Education plans to relax its standardized testing requirements again this spring. In addition, school divisions will be given “greater flexibility” in awarding students credits towards graduation.

“The waivers and emergency guidance will simplify the logistics of SOL testing this year and ensure that COVID-19 pandemic does not unduly prevent any student from earning a diploma,” said State Superintendent James Lane in a press release yesterday. “The Board of Education and I are also creating opportunities for school divisions to create multiple pathways for students to demonstrate content mastery while prioritizing health and safety.” Continue reading

AG Mark Herring Takes Aim at Gun Show

by Kerry Dougherty

Mark Herring is so proud of himself that he took to Twitter yesterday to do a little preening.

Virginia’s attorney general even put those silly flashing light icons at the top of his post so you’d know this was really big news.

Yep, Herring’s chuffed because he successfully stopped Virginians from buying firearms this weekend. A big victory for Richmond’s anti-gun crowd.

This had nothing to do with COVID-19. The pandemic was just a convenient excuse.

Herring essentially shut down a popular three-day Northern Virginia gun show that had already put into place rules for reduced capacity, masks and social distancing, as they had for two earlier shows this year. Continue reading

I Thought It Was All About the “Science”

by James A. Bacon

Governor Ralph Northam likes to say he follows the “science” and the “data” when promulgating rules to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus. But he admitted yesterday that the latest round of lockdown measures — which included ordering children as young as five to wear masks — was inspired by images in the media.

“I will tell you what really affected me is seeing mobile morgues outside hospitals because there’s no place to put the dead. We don’t need that to happen to Virginia,” he said in his latest press briefing.

As described by the Roanoke Times, he started by talking about the data. But “then he became somewhat emotional,” the newspaper writes, and he said the sight of the mobile morgues prompted him last Friday to impose the latest measures. Continue reading

Arbitrary and Capricious Rules for Thanksgiving

by Kerry Dougherty

I missed Gov. Ralph Northam’s COVID press conference yesterday. That’s OK, his pressers always fill me with dread.

Yet I had a legit reason for skipping this one: I was getting my hair done. In case Northam decided that the only way to “slow the spread” was to put Virginia’s hair stylists out of business. Again.

He didn’t. But Northam was clear that “everything is on the table” if our COVID numbers don’t come down.

“Do the right thing,” he said sternly.

Is there anything more annoying than a governor lecturing the people and blaming them for a virus?

News flash: We ARE doing the right thing, governor. And the virus is doing its thing. Stop blaming people for a virus that you and your wife caught. Were you two doing the wrong thing? Or did you discover that no matter what precautions you take, anyone can be infected? A little self-awareness would be nice. Continue reading

Where Does Ralph Northam Go From Here with COVID-19?

Image by André Santana from Pixabay

by DJ Rippert

Marcel Marceau. Ralph “The COVID Mime” Northam dropped a bevy of increased Coronavirus restrictions on the state last Friday. Those new restrictions on Friday followed another rambling COVID press conference held by Northam the prior Tuesday. Anybody watching the Tuesday news conference could be forgiven for being shocked by The COVID Mime’s actions on Friday. Unlike governors such as Larry Hogan in Maryland Northam avoids any serious discussion of possible actions he might take to slow the spread of the resurgent virus in Virginia during his press conferences. Instead, Northam recites statistics about COVID-19 in Virginia and reminds people to wear masks, maintain social distance and wash their hands regularly. He also provides pithy commentary such as, “This is very concerning, especially because it is getting colder. The holidays are approaching and the temptation to gather with other people is high.” Then, as the news week winds to a close, Northam drops a COVID bomb. To say Jim Bacon was exasperated is putting it mildly. The virus has continued to spread internationally, nationally and in Virginia.  So, we get to play the next installment of the Bacons Rebellion game show “What will The Mime do next?” Continue reading

COVID-19 Peaks in SW Virginia, No Cause for Panic Elsewhere

COVID-19 surge in Virginia’s Southwest region. Source: Virginia Department of Health.

by James A. Bacon

Spread of the COVID-19 virus is gaining momentum as the weather cools, and news reports from around the country are raising the alarm that hospitals are at risk of being swamped by a fresh surge in patients. Here in the Old Dominion, the situation is reaching a “crisis point” in far Southwest Virginia, according to the leading hospital system, Ballad Health.

So, how bad are things getting? Are we experiencing a re-run of the spring when public policy was driven by panic that the United States might see a repeat of the hospital overcrowding in Italy and then in New York City?

When viewed from a statewide level, there appears to be no imminent threat of hospitals getting overwhelmed. According to the latest Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association data, hospitals are treating 1,313 patients confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19. That compares to 3,063 inpatient beds available, and another 3,695 additional beds licensed under Executive Order 52. Continue reading

COVID, Telecommuting and Urban Renewal

Riverfront Towers. Photo credit: Richmond BizSense

Just a year or two ago, the big momentum in commercial real estate markets was for businesses to relocate facilities from the suburbs to the metropolitan core. Young people wanted to live and work in or near Virginia’s downtowns, and corporations followed the talent. The City of Richmond snagged one prestigious tenant after another. One of those was healthcare logistics giant Owens & Minor, which in 2017 supplemented its suburban Mechanicsville headquarters with a 90,000-square-foot lease in Riverfront Tower downtown.

Now, reports Richmond BizSense, Owens & Minor has pulled the plug on its downtown call center and is seeking tenants to sub-lease the space.

The reason? The company has shifted office workers to remote work in response to the coronavirus epidemic. Employees have adapted well to the work-from-home setting.

“As 2020 progressed, the COVID-19 pandemic compelled us to reevaluate our call center operations. The performance of our call center teammates in the work-from-home era has been spectacular, and the teammates requested that we carry that new business model into the future. We have recently made the decision to exit from our call center location in downtown Richmond,” the spokeswoman said. Continue reading

Northam: Messaging, Not Mandates

Northam during an October press conference. Image credit: Virginia Mercury

Despite a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, hair-on-fire national media coverage, and the imposition of tighter restrictions in neighboring Maryland, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C., Governor Ralph Northam is holding steady with a relatively light regulatory regimen for Virginia. As the Virginia Mercury puts it today, “Northam is stressing messaging — not mandates — to curb rising COVID-19 infections.”

Good for Northam.

After some missteps early in the epidemic, the governor appears to have struck a reasonable balance between slowing the spread of the coronavirus and keeping the economy open. Northam is asking Virginians to exercise personal responsibility. Wash hands, wear masks, and limit gatherings. Continue reading