In brief: New COVID regulations, legal weed, and more

Daily new cases in Charlottesville and Albemarle PC: Data courtesy TJHD Daily new cases in Charlottesville and Albemarle PC: Data courtesy TJHD

Tighten it up

On Sunday, with COVID-19 cases surging across the United States, Governor Ralph Northam announced a new set of stricter regulations for citizens and businesses in Virginia. The rules, which went into effect at midnight on November 15, limit gatherings to 25 individuals, instead of the previous 250. Restaurants are now required to end alcohol sales by 10pm and close by midnight. Masks are mandated for any person over the age of 5, in contrast to the previous mandate, which only included those 10 years of age and up. There are large exceptions, however: The new restrictions do not apply to schools, churches, offices, gyms, businesses, or sporting events.

On November 12, the day before Northam’s announcement, the CDC reported 194,610 new cases in the U.S., the record for a single day. Virginia is doing better than many states, yet has still seen a 24.3 percent rise in its weekly average cases compared to last month. The Thomas Jefferson Health District, which encompasses the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, continues to see relatively stable numbers of total cases, though officials have warned that things could get worse quickly as the holiday season sets in.

With less than two weeks until Thanksgiving, Northam describes these restrictions as preventative. “COVID-19 is surging across the country, and while cases are not rising in Virginia as rapidly as in some other states, I do not intend to wait until they are,” he said in a video released on Sunday. “We are acting now to prevent this health crisis from getting worse.”—Caroline Challe

Early to bed

Monday night’s City Council meeting adjourned just after 9:30pm, a mercifully early finish. This year, council meetings, which begin at 6:30 pm, have regularly run into the wee hours of the morning. As councilors and observers have noted, holding important discussions late in the evening makes public participation difficult for working people, and also puts a strain on the city’s staff.

This week’s early adjournment comes in part thanks to a scheduling tweak made by council, which will now listen to reports by city staff—like Monday’s report on the city’s fiscal year 2021 budget—in the afternoon, rather than during the evening meetings.

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Quote of the week

You get one person who’s asymptomatic and infected, and then all of a sudden, four or five people in that gathering are infected…You don’t want to be the Grinch that stole the holidays.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, on the importance of safe Thanksgiving plans

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In brief

Union recruitment

With UVA Health System experiencing severe staffing and management issues, United Campus Workers at UVA is currently surveying and recruiting hospital employees. The union urges them to regularly check their work email for a confidential survey on their working conditions and concerns, as well as their right to join the union, which is protected under federal and state law.

Police problems

An October blog post from the Rugby Avenue Unitarian Universalist church circulated this week, describing yet another example of troubling behavior from the Charlottesville Police Department. Per the blog post, a Black male church member was walking down the sidewalk, on his way to help clean the playground, when a UVA student called the cops. Five police cars flocked to the scene and accosted the church member for questioning before letting him proceed. An internal investigation is ongoing, and will conclude in around two weeks, says CPD spokesman Tyler Hawn.

High priorities

Governor Northam announced on Monday that he will support legislation to fully legalize marijuana in the next year’s General Assembly session. Last year, the assembly decriminalized the drug, making possession punishable with a fine rather than a misdemeanor. Should the Old Dominion move forward with Northam’s plan, Virginia would become the 16th state, and the first state in the South, to make the drug fully legal.

Cash help

With remaining CARES Act funds, the city will offer some financial assistance to the 228 temporary employees it stopped paying last month. Those with a household income below 50 percent of the area median income can receive up to $750, while those below 30 percent can get up to $1,000. Interested employees must contact the Department of Human Services.

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