Fairfax County Declares Local State of Emergency

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors held an emergency meeting in order to address the COVID-19 pandemic. During that meeting they passed a resolution declaring a local state of emergency. According to Chairman Jeff McKay, “this declaration streamlines and expedites Fairfax County Government’s access to emergency disaster funding and it allows the county to use its authority to procure goods to address the emergency.”

Of course, this move comes after the Commonwealth of Virginia has declared a statewide state of emergency and other localities in the region have passed similar measures. The local state of emergency can still prove extremely valuable, however, as it provides some flexibility and authority for the county to quickly respond to needs that are specific to Fairfax County. Supervisor Kathy Smith addressed this in an email she sent out to constituents earlier today.

“The local emergency declaration is primarily a financial mechanism that provides greater flexibility and authority for the county in purchasing hard to find resources and supplies,” Supervisor Smith said. “It also increases the authorities granted to the county to protect the health and safety of the community and provide emergency assistance in such a rapidly evolving incident.”

Since it seems like there’s constantly updated information related to state and local action related to the coronavirus, it’s worth noting that Fairfax County does have a text alert system set up to help provide the public with any info they might need. To sign up, you can text FFXCOVID to 888777.

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Northam Announces Ban on Gatherings With More Than 100 People

NorthamIn a conference call with reporters earlier today, Governor Ralph Northam announced a ban on gatherings with more than 100 people in Virginia. The announcement comes as 45 people have tested positive for COVID-19, but many people likely have the virus but simply haven’t had their cases confirmed due to a lack of available testing.

The peninsula region of the Commonwealth has been hit especially hard and a ban on gatherings with more than 50 people has been implemented in that region. This development came the day after Virginia’s first coronavirus related death was announced by the Department of Health and it appears as though it was a resident of this region who passed away.

According to Rep. Rob Wittman, it was one of his constituents from the James City and reports suggest it was a man in his 70’s who acquired the virus from an unknown source. There is now an effort to track down the 284 people he is believed to have had contact with since getting the virus in order to ensure they are tested and take needed precautions.

Although a complete quarantine hasn’t been mandated, the governor did urge Virginians to practice social distancing as much as possible. He suggested the public avoid church services, social activities, going out to bars and restaurants, and any other activities that involve relatively large amounts of people gathering.

Health officials from the Peninsula Health District have announced public buildings in the region have also been closed through the end of the month, but police and fire services will continue during that time.

Localities outside the peninsula are also taking extra precautions. In a text message sent out to the community today, for instance, Fairfax County announced “senior centers and adult day health care centers are closed effective immediately.” Moving forward, it’s likely we’ll see even more steps taken designed to help protect residents who are most at risk for contracting the virus.

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Rep. Gerry Connolly Calls Out Trump Administration for Politicizing Coronavirus

Over the course of the last several years, the Trump Administration has constantly tried to limit access to the healthcare system and is still filing lawsuits trying to challenge the Affordable Care Act. If the president is successful in his efforts to do away with Obamacare, it could have a devastating impact on the country as we’re facing a deadly worldwide pandemic.

Of course, this is on top of how Trump has disbanded the National Security Council’s global pandemic team and his latest budget has drastically cut funding to the Center for Disease Control. And as if doing away with critical programs wasn’t enough, the president has declared the coronavirus a “hoax” and was extremely slow to actually address the issue. These are just some of the several ways in which the administration has mishandled the situation.

Now that it’s become abundantly clear that COVID-19 represents a major issue that’s already having large ramifications all across the country, the president has insisted he doesn’t “take responsibility at all” for the mistakes his administration has made. This is a far cry from Harry Truman’s the buck stops here remarks, but sadly isn’t terribly surprising to many people.

With all this in mind, it was good to see Rep. Gerry Connolly calling out the administration for politicizing the pandemic and being extremely unprepared. Trump needs to be held accountable for his actions and we quickly need to have leadership put doing what’s best for the American people ahead of the president’s political interest.

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Northam Closes Schools Throughout Virginia

Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency yesterday in response to the coronavirus outbreak and today announced that all schools in Virginia will be closed for at least two weeks. Schools will be closed from Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 27 and localities have the authority to potentially extend the length of time their schools will be closed.

“We are taking this action to keep Virginians as safe and healthy as possible, and to minimize exposure to COVID-19,” said Governor Northam. “I recognize this will pose a hardship on many families, but closing our schools for two weeks will not only give our staff time to clean and disinfect school facilities, it will help slow the spread of this virus. This is a fluid and fast-changing situation. We will do everything possible to ensure that students who rely on school nutrition programs continue to have access to meals, and that the disruption to academics is as minimal as possible.”

The good news is officials realize this could potentially impact families who depend on receiving free and reduced price meals during the school day and the Department of Social Services is taking steps to ensure students still have access to these meals. In a statement announcing that Fairfax County Public Schools will be closed through April 10, for instance, the school system highlighted that both breakfast and lunch will be available for students.

There are currently five sites for students to pick up meals, but that list is likely to expand as it could be difficult for students to travel to schools outside of their normal district. Not only will these meals be free for students, but adult meals will be available for the low cost of two dollars.  Just today, FCPS announced they served over 1,500 meals at the five locations since schools were closed.

Of course, this development comes after many colleges and universities have closed their campuses and will be holding online courses. UVA, for example, is encouraging students who live on campus to return home, has canceled in person classes, and will begin holding online classes on Thursday in a manner that will also allow staff to work remotely.

Over time, this could present an interesting dilemma for some families as parents have to deal with an unexpected need for childcare. Many employers have fortunately implemented remote work policies that could prove beneficial, but this won’t be feasible for all workplaces. Medical professionals, for instance, will still have to present at their facilities in order to treat patients and many are expressing concern about who will care for their children while they’re working.

According to Fairfax County, they evaluating how to deal with SACC programs for families that already utilize the program, but these sites will be closed for the next two weeks and they will only operate at consolidated sites for the week of March 30. There hasn’t been much discussion about how local families who don’t take advantage of SACC will be able to move forward.

Despite all the issues that are coming up as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, it’s still important that communities are taking steps to help slow the spread of the pandemic. For those who are interested in receiving local updates on the situation from Fairfax County, you can text FFXCOVID to 888777.

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Video: Amy Klobuchar Discusses Foreign Policy at Rally in Falls Church, VA

With Virginia holding it’s primary on Super Tuesday, we’ve seen many of the presidential candidates making appearances in the Commonwealth. That includes Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who held a campaign rally at the State Theatre in Falls Church.

The Senator covered a wide variety of topics, but the following video are of her remarks on foreign policy and how we need to help restore America’s reputation. The clip also includes remarks about how we cannot afford to have another four more years of a president who believes he’s above the rule of law.

If nothing else, the clip is worth watching to hear the story of how “a weird cult of Danes” followed her around “with flags” after she made remarks at a campaign event in New Hampshire about Trump blaming Denmark for everything.

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Video: Pete Buttigieg Holds Rally in Arlington, VA

Pete Buttigieg held a campaign rally on the football field at Washington Liberty High School in Arlington, VA yesterday that was attended by almost 10,000 people. The line to get into the event was filled with extremely energetic people even though it stretched for over a mile as it weaved its way through the neighborhood surrounding the school.

This video features some footage from the event, including some of his speech. While he covered a wide variety of topics during a speech that lasted almost 45 minutes, the video features a portion that addressed economic justice and housing discrimination.

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Video: Del. Karrie Delaney Provides Legislative Update

While there are obviously a number of issues Virginia’s General Assembly is dealing with that have received a fair amount of media attention, attending legislative town hall meetings during session is a great way to learn about some of the issues being addressed that aren’t featured on the evening news. That was certainly the case during a town hall meeting that Del. Karrie Delaney held with Sen. Dave Marsden on Saturday.

A couple dozen people gathered Saturday afternoon in the cafeteria of Cub Run Elementary School to updates from the General Assembly members. While a variety of issues were discussed throughout the meeting, Del. Delaney focused in on two issues during her opening remarks.

Up first, Karrie provided some in depth information about her efforts to make sure forensic nurses are available at hospitals throughout Virginia. For those who don’t know, forensic nurses are medical professionals who can not only provide treatment but also help collect evidence that could be used in a court of law if a criminal case moves forward. The Delegate also spoke about other ways she’s working to help ensure victims of domestic violence receive the treatment they need.

Del. Delaney also highlighted her work surrounding special education issues and making sure the school systems are communicating with parents about some of the work their students are doing in the schools.

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Video: Sen. Dave Marsden Provides Update on Legislation to Help End Gun Violence

Measures to help end gun violence have been one of the biggest topics of discussion during this year’s session for Virginia’s General Assembly, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that it came up during a town hall forum that Del. Karrie Delaney and Sen. Dave Marsden held at Cub Run Elementary School in Centreville this afternoon.

In a crowd of 20 people or so, about a dozen people showed up wearing “guns save lives” stickers that the Virginia Citizens Defense League have been handing out and made it clear this was essentially the only issue that even remotely cared about. Sen. Marsden therefore took time to address the issue during his opening remarks and that portion of the statement can be seen in the following video.

It should be noted that while this group was largely civil during the debate, that has been far from the case at many community forums. Not only have anti-gun violence prevention people showed up wearing military tactical gear and weapons of war to community events in order to intimidate people, but they have constantly been demeaning others and have made deaths threats to politicians and activists alike. Sen. Marsden, for example, told the audience he’s received threats and I personally have as well.

It’s with that in mind that I was pleased to see Sen. Marsden end the forum by addressing the divisiveness that’s been happening and calling for a more civil discussion. The following is video of those remarks.

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Fairfax County School Board Supports Collective Bargaining for Public Employees

With Democrats gaining control of both chambers of the General Assembly after last year’s elections, one of the be issues being considered this session is workers’ rights. A higher minimum wage looks to be well on its way to being signed into law, for instance, and several other measures are being discussed.

What’s unfortunately faced some difficulties down in Richmond is support for allowing public employees to have their voices heard in discussions in their workplace through collective bargaining.

In hopes of making it clear that Fairfax County supports workers, the Fairfax County School Board voted to express support for legislation allowing public employees to participate in collective bargaining. This will be added to the legislative agenda the board presents to the General Assembly every year.

In the past, previous school boards have actually specifically included opposition to collective bargaining in the agenda. Realizing this is the wrong position to take, Karl Frisch made motions to remove the board’s opposition and express support for public employees having the right to collectively bargain.

The motion ended up passing unanimously and, after hearing from several speakers during citizens participation time, it was clear the board was proud to support the measure as members went into details about why they’re supportive of the teachers and other public employees being able to have their voices heard.

The following video is just a glimpse of what they had to say.

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At Fairfax Town Hall, Tulsi Gabbards Goes After Pelosi for Ripping Up Trump’s Speech

Rep. Tulsi GabbardDuring a campaign rally yesterday evening in Fairfax, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard expressed her disappointment in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to tear up her copy of the State of the Union address Donald Trump delivered earlier this month.

“I would not have done what she did,” the Congresswoman said. While she wasn’t at the State of the Union because she was campaigning up in New Hampshire that evening, she claims to have woken up the next morning and noticed Pelosi ripping up the speech “was one of the main things that was trending.” She told the crowd she “just shook [her] head” upon reading the news because she was so disappointed.

“I think, like a lot of people,” she added, “we’re sick and tired of the political theater and the drama in Washington. It’s not helping. It’s not helping to heal these divides.”

The remarks were made during the Q&A portion of the event in response to a question from a self described Trump supporter. The gentleman wanted to know if Rep. Gabbards supported the ethics complaint Republican Matt Gaetz of Florida had filed against Pelosi. He claimed the Speaker’s actions were “beneath the dignity of the House and a potential violation of law.”

Although Gabbard did say she didn’t think Pelosi’s actions warranted an ethics investigation, she believed it helped to illustrate how many elected officials aren’t focused on the right issues.

“There are real challenges and real hardships that every one of our leaders from Donald Trump to Nancy Pelosi need to be focused on,” Tulsi told the crowd. “Actually working together to solve these problems and help people” deserves much more attention that partisan bickering.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Gabbard has gotten into a rift with leaders in the Democratic Party. Back in October, for instance, Hillary Clinton famously implied she was a puppet of the Russian government. The Congresswoman has now filed a lawsuit against her for $50 million saying the former Secretary of State “carelessly and recklessly impugned” her character.

In the lawsuit, Tulsi says she “seeks to hold Clinton, and the political elites who enable her, accountable for distorting the truth in the middle of a critical Presidential election.” This was very much along the same lines of the message that she was promoting during last night’s campaign rally.

While introducing her at the event, for instance, a supporter named Carl said “the corporate establishment has its foot the neck of every other politician,” but could never gain control of Rep. Gabbard since “they know that Tulsi will not do their bidding.”

This tied in with how Tulsi claimed that greed was corrupting the political process. Whether it was through financial gain or simply those in power supposedly being willing to do whatever it takes to keep it, she repeatedly spoke in opposition to “the establishment” and the current state of our political system.

“I hate the pay to play politics that rules the day in Washington,” the Congresswoman said. “I hate the politics of hyper partisanship. Of people in positions of power and influence who are more interested in keeping their power than helping people who they are supposed to be serving.”

This type of messaging could potentially tap into a growing sentiment among the general public, but her campaign has somehow managed to attract supporters who take the frustration expressed in her stump speech to a whole new level. As the line was forming prior to last night’s event, for example, several of her supporters were claiming Assad’s war crimes in Syria were really just a media conspiracy that people were using in part to make Gabbard look bad.

Others claimed the DNC was out to get Tulsi and were actively trying to prevent her from sharing her views during the debates. While her campaign isn’t the only one frustrated by not being able to qualify for the debate stage recently, other candidates don’t appear as eager to claim their inability to get enough donors or high enough poll results were actually a result of a conspiracy being run by high ranking officials within the Democratic Party.

The conspiracy theories being floated only got worse once inside the building. An older gentleman wearing a “veterans for Tulsi” t-shirt rambled on about how the establishment was doing everything it could to limit her influence on the primary process. He insisted this was actually one of the reasons he was supporting her candidacy. The 68 year old retiree eventually tied his claims about “the establishment” into a theory he was promoting that Israeli oil interests played a role in the war in Iraq. According to the people he was talking to, this is why Colin Powell gave his speech about weapons of mass destruction in a desperate attempt to keep world leaders in powerful positions.

All this is to say that somebody who simply listens to her stump speech might find Tulsi Gabbard’s candidacy appealing, but a deeper dive into her campaign and its supporters raises a whole lot of other questions. And decrying Pelosi’s decision to tear up the text of Trump’s speech simply highlights how the Congresswoman from Hawaii appears to almost seek out any opportunity she has to attack the current leaders in the Democratic Party.

For those who are interested, the audio below is of the exchange she had regarding Pelosi at the State of the Union Address.

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