Monthly Archives: July 2020

Council moves forward with application for Preston/Grady intersection

The Charlottesville City Council has agreed to proceed with a funding request to redevelop the intersection of Preston and Grady, along with three other transportation projects. This happened despite concern from some that the city has not yet done enough to prepare for development on the Preston Avenue Corridor. 

City Council voted 3-2 on Monday, July 20, on a motion to proceed with applications, which are being made under the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale program. This is the fourth round of the program, which ranks candidate projects according to a series of metrics, including how they will improve public safety. 

The first phase of the Dairy Central project is nearing completion, and on July 22 a section of 10th Street NE is closed to facilitate construction (Credit – Sean Tubbs)
Read more

July 17, 2020: 1,002 new cases, $1.25 in business funding and 58 percent tax revenue

Today’s edition materializes thanks to the French Press, open every day from 7 to 7 in Waynesboro for delicious coffee and light treats. Cool snacks, and cold and frozen bevvies. Order in advance on the @cloosiv app or call ahead 540.221.6568. See you there at the French Press? 

The number of cases of COVID-19 in Virginia has increased by another 1,002 cases, and the percent positive rate rate for all testing encounters has risen to 7.4 percent. That number was 7.1 percent on Thursday. There have now been 2,013 fatalities. Yesterday the Health District reported another 14 new cases and today reported another 23 cases for a cumulative total of 1,335 cases. Since Wednesday, that’s ten new cases in Albemarle, 15 in Charlottesville, four in Greene, three in Fluvanna, four in Louisa and 1 in Nelson. There have been 29 fatalities but none reported since July 7. The positive percentage rate is 7.4 percent for the PCR test, and 7.2 for all tests. 


The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will meet sometime next week to discuss what steps the county might take to prevent further spread of COVID-19. The six elected officials brought the matter up at the end of Wednesday’s meeting after getting a briefing from health officials. Here’s Supervisor Donna Price of the Scottsville District.

“I think there was a fairly strong consensus about concern over moving from phase two to phase three, but the board did not take a formal vote and did not take a formal action,” Price said. 

Some supervisors are concerned that the large gathering permitted under Phase Three of the Forward Virginia plan will lead to more infections, and some want to tell Governor Ralph Northam to go back to Phase 2, which limited gatherings to 50 people or fewer. Supervisors aren’t scheduled to meet again until August 5, but Price said there is a need for a special meeting. 

“What we’re anticipating is a meeting next week where we will have more information from the Virginia Department of Health,” Price said. “We’re looking to have consultation with the city of Charlottesville, UVA. Obviously from my perspective we’re going to also include the town of Scottsville.”  

Price said she is concerned about what the next few months may be like and is concerned many have become fatigued by physical distancing and facial covering guidelines. The supervisor made her comments at the virtual meeting of the 5th and Avon Community Advisory Committee. 


A local group that studies public policy in the area reports that tourism activity was down 58 percent in March and April. The Free Enterprise Forum reviewed transient occupancy and meals tax records from Albemarle and Charlottesville in its research. Neil Williamson is the organization’s president. 

“The fact that tourism activity is down 58 percent is dramatic,” Williamson said “ You have to remember that the taxes are collected one month after the activity occurs, so when you look at May taxes, it’s really reflecting April activity. In May 2020, the city collected nearly 50 percent less, about a million dollars less, in meals tax revenue compared to 2019 or even 2018. 

Williamson said the Free Enterprise Forum will continue to look at the numbers. When asked what steps he would recommend to improve those numbers, he urged people to follow the guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19. (blog post)

“I think it’s critically important that customers and employees follow the protocols. It is for the safety of everyone to follow the safety protocols,” Williamson said. “Wear the mask.” 

This week, Albemarle County launched an initiative to help businesses get through the downturn in the economy. The $1.25 million Lift Grant program will provide some funding for up to 100 small businesses. Roger Johnson is the county’s economic development director.

“We want to provide aid to small businesses, all businesses in Albemarle County, giving a preference to women, minority and veteran owned businesses, as well as the hospitality and tourism industry. As for why we gave preference to the tourism industry, they have a direct economic impact in our community of over $400 million.” 

A webinar will be held on the Lift Grant program on July 27 at noon. (press release)


The University of Virginia has released its latest plans for on Grounds opening for the fall semester. Students will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days before returning, and must have a negative COVID-19 test to attend in-person classes. The plan has details about how UVA will hire a third-party vendor to provide tests for students. All students, faculty and staff will be required to have a daily health check and must wear facial coverings. Everyone on Grounds will be given a touch tool to open doors, and there will be 2,600 free-standing hand sanitizer stations. Dining rooms will be open at 50 percent capacity, but takeout options will be increased. More information can be found in the five-page plan. (the plan)

Newscast for July 16: 2007 deaths, back to Phase 2?

Today’s assemblage of pertinent information is brought to you by the College Inn, a place that is ready to bring you a variety of food and beverages throughout Charlottesville via delivery. That includes ice cream! Place your order online at or phone 977-2710. 

Virginia’s COVID-19 death toll is now 2,007 based on new information released this morning. The Virginia Department of Health reports another 904 new cases today, and reported 1,084 new cases on Wednesday. That brings the total number of cases to 74,431. The statewide 7-day positive percentage for all testing encounters has increased to 7.1 percent. 

Read more

Newscast for July 15, 2020: Masks, water, meetings

Today’s edition of the program is sponsored by Mead Oriental Rugs, located on 4th Street NE. Open by appointment, call 971-8077 to set up your visit. Mead Oriental Rugs. 

Governor Ralph Northam held his first press conference in three weeks Tuesday and stated there are currently no plans to move on with an additional phase in the Forward Virginia plan. That’s because there is an increasing number of positive COVID cases in eastern Virginia.

“The eastern region’s moving seven day average of new cases was around 60 in early June. Today that average is 346.”

Northam said the percent positive rate in eastern Virginia is 10.1 percent, which is causing concern that there is “substantial community spread.” The percentage in the Thomas Jefferson Health  District around Charlottesville is around eight percent. The governor said he is directing the Alcoholic Beverage Control and other agencies to step up enforcement of masks in indoor restaurants

“It’s just like the signs in so many store windows that say no shirt, no shoes, no service. Now it should be no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service.” 

Northam said he is directing alcohol sales to stop at 11 each night. More information from this press conference can be heard in the next installment of the Charlottesville Quarantine Report. 

The Greene County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing to get comment on proposed fee increases to help cover the cost of building a new reservoir. Mark B. Taylor is the Greene County administrator. 

“The water supply project that Greene County is undertaking is responding to a very real need. Our existing water system works pretty well in wet years, but our customer’s peak demand exceeds the capacity of our water plan. When it’s not wet, Greene County has problems.”

Taylor said Greene’s ability to support a growing population depends on building the White Run Reservoir, a plan approved in 2009 and updated in 2011. The Rapidan Service Authority increased has some fees already. The land for the reservoir has been completed, and now negotiations are underway for easements for water pipeline from the Rapidan River to the reservoir. (meeting presentation


The Daily Progress is reporting that the Albemarle County School Board is preparing plans to begin the school year entirely online. More than five hundred teachers and school staff signed an open letter asking Superintendent Matt Haas to prepare for online learning given the potential risks of opening schools while positive cases increase locally. Last week, Haas presented a plan that would echo Charlottesville’s plan to have elementary students attend four days a week and middle and high school students. Read Katherine Knott’s story in today’s paper for more details

Today in government meetings, the Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee meets virtually at noon, and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors meets at one. The HAC will be presented with the findings of analysis and visualization on how AirBnB and other short-term rentals are affecting the housing market. The presentation was made by a group associated with SmartCville. The Board of Supervisors will talk about how human services agencies are funded, details on a $1.25 million grant program for businesses affected by COVID-19, and how to improve stream health. There will also be a presentation from Jaunt on how on-demand transit could help provide more options for people who don’t have a car, or who choose not to drive.  (agenda)

Community Engagement newscast for July 14, 2020

Hello and welcome to the Community Engagement podcast newscast for July 14, 2020. It’s the 196th day of the year, but who’s counting? Today’s edition of this informational nugget is sponsored by Rapture, open for lunch and early dinner on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall, weather permitting. Now extending brunch to Fridays, consider Rapture for your next family meal. 

Coming soon to a podcast host near you!

The Virginia Department of Health is reporting another 801 cases of COVID-19 this morning, bringing the cumulative total to 72,443. Nine more deaths have been reported for a total of 1,977. The 7-day percent positive rate for all testing encounters has risen again to 6.8 percent. That’s the third day in a row that metric has increased by a tenth of a percent.  In the Thomas Jefferson Health District, there are 41 new cases reported today for a cumulative total of 1,277. The 7-day positivity rate in the area for all testing encounters is 7.5 percent based on 27,858 tests. 

Source – Virginia Department of Health

It has now been four months since the State of Emergency was declared in Virginia for the COVID-19 pandemic. Mayor Nikuyah Walker and other city officials held a press conference yesterday to reinforce the need for vigilance.

“After a few months spending trying to figure out how we  protect each other, I think we all understand that we at some point have reached a fatigue around this COVID-19 virus. There have been a lot of mixed messages from state, federal and even here at the local level and it’s been a very confusing time to try to figure out how to keep yourself and your family safe.” 

Mayor Walker and other speakers warned that the fatigue can be hazardous as people stop using masks and stop keeping physical distance. Dr. Denise Bonds of the Thomas Jefferson Health District said her agency is responsible for enforcement of directives requiring facial coverings.

“To date we’ve had 180 complaints almost all of them related to individuals not wearing masks in restaurants or shops. Our policy right now is to inform and educate  for the first few times we get a complaint about a particular organization. If the complaint continues and its an agency that we are responsible for regulating, we do have the authority to issue more serious compliance orders with that.

The full video of the press conference can be seen on the city of Charlottesville’s archive and excerpts will be included in the next edition of the Charlottesville Quarantine Report. Governor Ralph Northam will hold his first press COVID-19 conference in several weeks. 


A University of Virginia media studies professor has published an article in the Guardian about whether American schools are ready to reopen in the fall. Siva Vaidhyanathan writes in a July 13 article that Charlottesville schools are not prepared to reopen, and he writes that the pressure from the federal government to resume in-person classes isn’t helping. Albemarle County plans to open on September 8 with students attending school twice a week in two different cohorts, with schools Friday for a teacher workday and deep cleaning. Charlottesville is considering a plan that would see students in kindergarten through 6th grade attend school days four a week, and older students on the same plan as Albemarle. A growing number of faculty and staff are pushing back on the concept as a number of metrics appears to indicate further caution. (Open letter to Albemarle County schools) (Siva Vaidhyanathan article in the Guardian

In government meetings today, the Charlottesville Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on how to spend nearly an additional $250,000 in federal funding for COVID-19 relief, as well as a rezoning that would allow a car wash located on Long Street to expand onto a nearby property.  The Albemarle County Planning Commission will take consider a request to fill in the flood plain for a stream crossing to enable more homes in Crozet. And the Greene County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on raising water connection fees to help raise funds for a proposed reservoir. 

Daily Community Engagement for July 13, 2020

This is the first of what will be many daily newscasts based on all of the various things we are recording in the community. This continues an experiment conducted in January 2019, and picks up right where we left off. The goal is to produce a quick five to ten minute daily briefing that you can also read. All reporting is original unless stated otherwise.


Over the weekend, there were three consecutive days where more than 800 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Virginia, That brings the cumulative number of cases to 70,670, with a reported 1,966 deaths. The 7-day percent positive metric for all testing encounters has risen from 5.9 percent on July 5 to 6.6 percent on Sunday. Meanwhile the Thomas Jefferson Health District reported 35 new cases on Sunday and 29 new cases on Saturday for a cumulative total of 1,208. There were also reports of outbreaks at two area long-term care facilities. Nationwide, there were 62,918 new cases reported in Virginia, for a total of 3.2 million. (Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 page)

A forecast model produced by the University of Virginia estimates that 495,799 cases of COVID-19 have been avoided since May 15 due to physical distancing and other measures. That comes from the July 10 update produced by the UVA Biocomplexity Institute, which also states that the novel coronavirus now has a reproduction rate of 1.124. That’s an indicator of how the disease spreads, and numbers above 1 raise concern. (July 10 update)

The community of Forest Lakes opted to close their outdoor pools on Friday, July 10 “out of an abundance of caution, due to an indirect exposure of the COVID virus.” That’s according to an email sent out by the Forest Lakes Community Association. They said the pools would reopen after being sanitized. 

Charlottesville City Hall will reopen on a limited basis beginning on July 10 for in-person transactions with either the Commissioner of Revenue’s office or Treasurer’s office. However, you’ll need to make an appointment to do so. (press release

Moving on to Community Engagement news, Albemarle County has hired a Washington D.C. firm to help conduct a new round of analysis of the future of the area around the Rio Road and U.S. 29 intersection. Smart Growth America will “review and provide comments on a draft, form-based code for the Rio29 area and/or provide hypothetical design scenarios for properties in the study area.” Supervisors adopted a master plan for the Rio-29 area in December 2018, and that included a recommendation to update the zoning ordinance to allow for creation of a “vibrant and diverse mixed-use community with interesting character and a human-scale built environment.” Supervisors heard an update on the plan earlier this month.  

A child care center that failed to get approval from Albemarle Supervisors for a new home on Pantops has purchased land on East Market Street in downtown  Charlottesville. An LLC associated with Our Neighborhood Child Develpment Center has purchased the site of the former ABC Preschool on East Market Street for $1.325 million. That’s about 20 percent below the 2020 assessment. ABC Preschool closed its doors last October five years after opening in a new building. In May, Supervisors deadlocked 3-3 on a request to build in the flood plain to allow for the Our Neighborhood center to move to a location on Stony Point Road. 

And that’s it for the July 13 edition of the Community Engagement newscast, picking up from our last such event from late January 2019. The world has changed a lot since then, and I’m putting myself in a position to help bring you information to help get you through these times. Please consider supporting my Patreon account with a modest monthly donation so I can keep going and get my eye back on the world around us. I’m Sean Tubbs, and thanks for listening.