by Carol J. Bova
The governor’s Long Term Care Facility Task Force list shows 179 nursing home and assisted living facilities with outbreaks of COVID-19. There are 52 more, according to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Outbreaks tab on the daily COVID-19 data, but no explanation why they’re missing from the Task Force list.
It took a little digging to narrow down where those facilities are located. The Task Force list can’t be downloaded or copied or sorted. But by adding its info to the CMS nursing home COVID-19 dataset and tagging each entry with the locality the Task Force used, I could compare the faciliity locations to the VDH Outbreaks Data Downloads and compile a list breaking down the number of missing outbreaks by Health District.
Alexandria – 4
Arlington – 3
Central Shenandoah – 3
Chesapeake – 1
Chesterfield – 2
Chickahominy – 2
Crater – 2
Eastern Shore – 2
Fairfax – 14 Continue reading
By James C. Sherlock
I have written here multiple times about the terrible and disproportionate effects that school shutdowns are having on poor children in Virginia.
The public school is an enterprise that has no admission standards. We do it that way on purpose, to try to give every American child as much opportunity to learn and develop into a successful citizen as we can. Public schools represent a core value of the American way of life and provide foundational support to our republic.
Virginia Guidelines vs. CDC Guidelines
On June 9, 2020 Governor Ralph Northam announced guidance for a phased approach that allows Virginia schools to slowly resume in-person classes for the coming academic year. There were two sources for the Governor’s guidance, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). Both dropped the ball.
VDH summarized and truncated the published CDC school considerations to slow the spread of COVID-19 to the point that they are at best unhelpful. It is difficult to imagine why they did not just publish the CDC guidelines, but they did not.
That flawed guidance was absorbed into the VDOE reopening guidelines.
One of the core recommendations that originated in VDOE — remote learning for large classes of K-12 students— has been shown in every study to have been ineffective in April and May. An alternative schedule will prove in practice unexecutable. Continue reading
Die, virus, die!
Three out of five of the 1,645 Virginians who have died from COVID-19 have been residents of long-term care facilities — one of the highest percentages of any state in the United States. There has been considerable speculation why. Vincent Mor, a research scientist with the Brown School of Public Health, has found that nursing-home staffing levels aren’t the issue. Neither is the source of funding, whether Medicaid or private insurance.
Mor argues that the size and location of long-term care facilities are the most decisive factors. Facilities most likely to have COVID-19 cases tend to be (1) located in larger urban areas with large populations of Hispanics and African-Americans, who are disproportionately likely to have the virus, and (2) the size of the facility, or, more specifically, the greater the number of employees coming and going.
“It’s all about the traffic,” he says in this PowerPoint presentation summarizing his research. “The bigger the building, the more people enter. … So, it’s NOT about the facility but the virus.”
I had never made these connections, and I think they are worth exploring here in Virginia. If the same pattern holds, it may influence how public health authorities prioritize the allocation of resources in the battle against the virus. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
The Home Educators Association of Virginia has seen a dramatic increase in inquiries about home schooling since the advent of the COVID-19 epidemic. In the past three months there have been 3,000 new members to the association’s Facebook page and 2,000 new requests to join through the website.
“Since [the pandemic], people are trying to figure out what to do. They’re very concerned now that the regulations and procedures on classrooms have been announced,” Anne Miller, president of the Home Educators association, told WYDaily. “Many parents are concerned about anxiety in the classroom and the threat of resurgence in the fall.”
Perhaps most notably, home schooling among African-American families is on the rise. Home schooling, say many African-American parents, helped their children learn about black history and culture. Home-schooled black children also out-perform their peers nationally, scoring above the 50th percentile in reading, language math and other core subjects, according to a 2015 National Home Education Research Institute study.
By accelerating the acceptance of the work-from-home norm, the COVID-19 epidemic may give parents more flexibility to home school their children. “I don’t believe as many people are going to want to go back to the office,” Miller said. “If you want to home school, there’s almost always a way to make it work with a working parent and working from home.” Continue reading
By Steve Haner
More than two dozen Virginia business associations have asked that the state’s Safety and Health Codes Board reject proposed workplace regulations to prevent COVID-19, stating they are unclear, contradictory, and not needed in light of other existing worker protections.
Some of the largest statewide associations, such as the Virginia Manufacturers Association, National Federation of Independent Business, and Virginia Retail Federation are on the list. So are some regional chambers of commerce and the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. You can read their 13-page submission here. The conclusion reads:
“It is unreasonable to apply “one size fits all” COVID-19 regulations to all employers and employees. Codifying guidance is not a reasonable replacement for regulation. It is confusing why after three months, the Regulations are being pursued through an emergency procedure, especially after OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) rejected the AFL-CIO’s petition for an emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 and the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied their petition for a writ of mandamus to compel OSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard for Infectious Diseases.”
The draft rules (here) and a related 200-page briefing package (here) have only been available since June 12. The public comment period closes tonight, and the board is set to meet Wednesday, in a format where the public can only watch. More details are provided in a Bacon’s Rebellion post from this weekend.
VSU President Makola Abdullah
by James A. Bacon
Accelerated by the COVID-19 epidemic, the wrenching restructuring of the higher-ed industry is moving from small, private liberal arts colleges to the weaker public universities. Here’s the latest news from Virginia State University and Radford University.
VSU, a 138-year-old historically black institution, faces a 10% drop in enrollment, big losses in dormitory and cafeteria revenue, and a $26 million operating deficit, reports the Richmond Free Press. President Makola M. Abdullah has told the board of visitors that the university likely will have to dip into its $21 million reserve fund to cover some of the deficit, including debt payments for residence halls and buildings.
Like other historically black higher-ed institutions, VSU has struggled in a marketplace where larger, more prestigious institutions offering more financial aid are competing for African-American students. The university has teetered on the brink of financial collapse before but has always managed to fight its way back. The Northam administration’s response to the COVID epidemic has undermined the business model of every Virginia institution by limiting the number of students who can reside in dormitories, and VSU is no exception. Continue reading
What makes Ralph run?
by James A. Bacon
A flood of COVID-19 test results were reported to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) over the weekend — more than 45,000 tests — and the news is good. While 1,652 new cases were confirmed over Saturday and Sunday, the seven-day moving average of the percentage of people testing positive declined to 6.5%, which may be the lowest since VDH started reporting the data.
Meanwhile, we see continued declines in the number of people sick enough to warrant admittance to the hospital . The seven-day average of new hospitalizations per day now stands at 24. You have to go back to March in the earliest stages of the epidemic to find such a low number. Same story with the number of deaths.
The prevalence of the virus in the population is falling. Hospitalizations are falling. Intensive hospitalization as measured by ICU occupancy and ventilator use is falling. And deaths are falling.
Even the Virginia Mercury, an online publication with a progressive slant, is moved to explain in its COVID-19 coverage why the Northam administration isn’t opening up the economy more rapidly. After all, every criterion Governor Ralph Northam announced a month ago has been met: more testing, a falling rate of confirmed cases, and fewer hospitalization. Continue reading
by Kerry Dougherty
Anyone here remember the very beginning of the nursing home crisis in Virginia?
Remember when we learned that a home in Henrico County, a facility where some residents reportedly had been stacked for a time like cordwood – three to a room – was in the midst of a deadly outbreak?
Last time I checked 51 residents of the Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center had died. For a while it was the deadliest place in America.
Intelligent people demanded more information on nursing homes. They wanted to know which homes were having outbreaks, how many people were sick in each and how many people had succumbed to the virus.
The governor stubbornly refused to divulge that data even though he had it. Instead, like an oblivious doctor writing off the elderly, he claimed that privacy rights of nursing homes where people were dying trumped the right of the public to know what was going on behind closed doors.
His attorney general Mark Herring – another alum of the Virginia Democratic Blackface Club – backed him up. Continue reading
By James C. Sherlock
It is very hard to recommend a career in politics these days. Elected officials are at the mercy of the competence of bureaucracies they did not create and over which, under civil service protections, they have little control.
Yet never have we needed dedicated, smart and effective political leaders more than today.
Clark Mercer, Governor Northam’s Chief of Staff, and I don’t vote the same way, but that doesn’t color my view of him. He is very smart and, if you see him on the Governor’s press conferences, he is a breath of fresh air, regularly elevating the discourse like no other person on the stage. He has a bright future.
I have been documenting the failures of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) in these pages and on the editorial pages of Virginia newspapers for more than a decade. I offer the title of this essay as a useful way to describe the hierarchy of incompetence in Virginia.
Well, VDH just reached up and bit Mr. Mercer.
by Carol J. Bova
When Governor Northam announced the release of the Virginia Health Department (VDH) COVID-19 details for specific nursing homes and assisted living facilities on June 19, he explained the reversal in policy: “It is also important that this information is released now, given inconsistent information reported at the federal level.” The governor’s Virginia Long-Term Care Task Force posted the names of facilities, the outbreak status, when it was reported to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.
The governor probably did not expect that federal information from The Centers For Medicare And Medicaid (CMS) COVID-19 Nursing Home Dataset would reveal that the VDH Task Force report missed 45 nursing homes that had reported more than 1,100 suspected COVID-19 cases to CMS. More than 500 suspected cases are nursing home staff members, and the others are residents. These numbers reflect only facilities not on the Task Force list and do not include any of those with an outbreak in progress.
Some of those suspected cases may have been ruled out in the past two weeks, and some may have been confirmed as COVID-19 cases, adding to the outbreak numbers. Continue reading
By Steve Haner
The Northam Administration’s Safety and Health Codes Board will hold an emergency meeting Wednesday –- in a virtual process allowing no public interactions – to impose sweeping new regulatory mandates related to COVID-19 on Virginia workplaces.
They could take effect immediately upon Governor Ralph Northam’s signature, and will not disappear if an end is declared to the current emergencies or the threat of the disease dissipates.
The draft rules (here) and a related 200-page briefing package (here) have only been available since June 12. The window for on-line written comments closes Monday evening. The affected businesses have had some advance warning because union and employee activists have been pushing similar proposals in other states and at the federal level, often without success.
The stated goal is to prevent spread of disease in work spaces, and screening, sanitation, face coverings and social distancing are directed in detail. The focus on workplace safety follows COVID-19 outbreaks in food processing and health care settings. These proposals, however, will reach into every Virginia retail, office or manufacturing space.
To review the comments already filed (776 as of Saturday morning), or to add your own, visit the related page on Virginia’s Regulatory Town Hall website. The deadline for filing is Monday night at 11:59 p.m. The chances that the comments will be assessed and studied before the votes take place on Wednesday are slim and it appears, so far, much of the debate is focused on mask mandates. That is a minor part of this quite broad proposal. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
If Governor Ralph Northam needs further justification for reversing his emergency shutdown measures, perhaps he should consider this recently published paper by Robert Fairlie with the University of California-Santa Cruz.
Analyzing the impact of COVID-19 social distancing restrictions on small business, Fairlie found that they disproportionately hit minority enterprises. The number of active business owners in the U.S. plummeted 22% between February to April 2020. “African-American businesses were hit especially hard experiencing a 41 percent drop. Latinx business owners fell by 32 percent, and Asian business owners dropped by 26 percent,” Fairlie writes. Immigrant and female businesses were similarly affected.
Using the logic of disparate impact, in which any adverse differential between whites and blacks is deemed to be evidence of discrimination or structural bias, the emergency decrees enacted by Northam and other activist governors can only be described as racist.
Northam may not have promulgated the decrees with racist intent, but motives really aren’t the issue. What matters are outcomes. Continue reading
By James C. Sherlock
I have only a brief experience as a middle school teacher in Fairfax County back in 1966/67 and several years as a volunteer remedial math instructor in middle school in Virginia Beach in this decade. I am not a graduate of a school of education.
So I have just read with interest,” Recover, Redesign, Restart 2020,” by the Virginia Department of Education.
The forward says in part:
“Through this document, we strive to offer guidance, technical support, best practices and alternate solutions as divisions prepare to continue providing instruction to all 1.3 million Virginia students under uncertain and evolving circumstances.”
Unfortunately, the document reads like a thesis. It is 136 pages long and credits for the product 228 participants, a great many of which are PhDs, in a long list of task forces and advisory panels.
I urge you each to open and at least scan it online.
It is full of such impressively pedantic guidance as: Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Wise King Ralph may have a problem with his back-to-school plan for this fall: Some of his subjects think it may be unconstitutional.
Under the Governor’s directive, schools will return to something resembling normal in three phases. The most controversial part of the plan requires staggering classes so students attend in-person some days and remotely on others. Critics have questioned the quality of teaching that can occur in such an environment, and have noted that keeping kids at home makes it difficult for parents to go back to work.
Senator Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach, issued a letter yesterday saying that the plan is not only misguided, but it is unconstitutional.
Despite the emergency authority being executed by your office, it is the General Assembly, not the Governor, that is given the power and authority to formulate the policies in our educational system for school boards to apply. Your plan announced June 9th is best characterized as gubernatorial overreach.
by Kerry Dougherty
Here’s something that will warm the hearts of every Karen in the commonwealth: Virginia’s Department of Health has opened an anonymous snitch line.
That’s right, no longer will these suburban tattletales have to give the side-eye to the unmasked or publicly berate people who disobey the governor’s arbitrary executive orders.
They can now loose government goons on the disobedient.
Hey, with a little luck they’ll be able to get those with uncovered faces booted from supermarkets and small shops. Eventually ABC licenses could be yanked and businesses that just reopened could be shut down again. The possibilities for adding to the general misery are endless. Continue reading