Vaccine distribution improves, the lights go out in Smyth County, Del. Chris Hurst gets some news and we talk about the Regional Council of Carpenters.

Daily Number

26- The number of hours Henry “Box” Brown stayed in a shipping crate. In order to escape slavery in Richmond, Brown mailed himself to Philadelphia on March 23, 1849. After a trip that involved a train, boat and wagon, Henry was free. 


Central Virginia Moves to Phase 1C

Residents around the Shenandoah Valley got some good news Thursday, as the Central Virginia Health District moved to Phase 1C of the vaccination plan. Health department officials said in a statement that they analyzed local data and got feedback from the district’s major vaccinators, feeling confident they had covered a majority of those in Phase 1A and 1B. 

Now who qualifies for a vaccine in Phase 1C, you ask? That includes the final round of essential workers, as well as people at higher risk of exposure to the virus. By that, we mean: 

  • All energy workers, including linemen and others in the field
  • All housing and construction workers
  • Any transportation and logistics workers
  • Anyone employed in finance 
  • Any legal services employees  
  • Barbers, hairdressers and stylists
  • College & university faculty and staff 
  • Food service workers, including all restaurants
  • Information technology and communication workers
  • Media workers, including print journalists, tv anchors and others
  • Public health workers
  • Public safety employees
  • Water, wastewater and waste removal employees

State officials expect all districts to be in Phase 1C by mid-April. Anyone over 16 who doesn’t meet the other requirements will be vaccinated in Phase 2, which should start by May 1. You can sign up by going to vaccinate.virginia.gov or by calling 1-877-829-4682. Someone is available to answer the phone from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. throughout the week. Also, translators are available in more than 100 languages.


It’s Official: Hurst Wins Democratic Nomination

In the next few days as we sort through the campaign filings, we’ll see which candidates qualified by the deadline and which ones decided to bow out. There are also a few things we can already declare. 

For example, Chris Hurst will once again be the Democratic nominee for House of Delegates District 12. No other Democrat filed before Thursday’s deadline, which means the incumbent automatically moves on to the November election. He’ll face Republican Jason Ballard, a Pearisburg town council member. 

Hurst sent out a statement Thursday, saying he was excited to move forward with the campaign. 

“I’m excited to continue our campaign this year as we talk about all we’ve accomplished in the past two years and what we still have left ahead of us,” Hurst said. “Thousands of people in the 12th District now have access to broadband internet for the first time because I helped deliver millions in state funds. Teachers, troopers, state employees and college faculty and staff are set to receive their highest pay raises in a decade. And I’m one of the loudest voices in Richmond fighting for additional school funding.” 


Today’s #ThisIsVirginia Highlights a Local Protest


Another School District Plans a ‘Virtual Academy’ 

Earlier this month, we reported on Henry County’s plans to launch a fully operational virtual academy by the fall. This would be for students who actually performed better in remote learning than they did in the classroom and whose parents want them to remain in that setting. Now another school district is copying the concept. 

Montgomery County Public Schools announced plans this week to offer their own fully virtual program for the fall. This will be open for any student from kindergarten through 12th grade, with classes taught by local teachers. If that’s not possible for any reason, teachers from the Virtual Virginia program will also help out. You can sign up for the full semester and then send the student back when you’re more confident about the vaccine.

There is a deadline attached, however. Parents have to sign up in Montgomery County by April 23 for middle and high school students. The deadline is May 14 for elementary students. 


Virus Variants Pop Up Across Virginia

Well, two more strains of the COVID-19 virus have made their way to Virginia. On Thursday, the Virginia Department of Health announced two highly contagious variants, originally found in California, showed up in samples. 

While the Centers for Disease Control did recently add both to their list of “Variants of Concern,” Virginia Department of Health officials say there’s no evidence either one would cause a more severe case of the virus. The only issue right now is how extremely contagious they are. 

As of Thursday, VDH officials reported 176 variant cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth. Based on recent evidence, all three approved vaccine options work on the variants.


Who Turned Out The Lights? 

The lights went out early Thursday morning in Smyth County, at least at two local schools. As a result, some kids had an extra day of vacation. Smyth County has been operating in-person classes since last year, but a power glitch shut things down right before buses went out at Northwood Middle and Rich Valley Elementary. 

District officials originally put both schools on a two-hour delay, but after a while, it was clear repairs wouldn’t be finished in time to get the school day in. Things will be back to normal, however, as students return to finish out the week. 


Dinwiddie Plans a Senior Vaccine Clinic

Do you have any family members in Dinwiddie County that are 65 and older? If the answer’s yes and any of them still need the vaccine, there’s a chance to solve that problem next week. County officials, working with the Virginia Department of Health, will set up a clinic next Wednesday over at the Eastside Community Enhancement Center. That’s at 7301 Boydton Plank Rd in Petersburg. 

To be clear, you can’t just show up and ask for the vaccine. People have to set up appointments through the Dinwiddie County COVID-19 Vaccination Call Center. You can do that by calling (804)-469-1050 anytime from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week. 

The clinic itself will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 31.


So, Let’s Talk About Face Coverings For a Minute


Thursday’s Trivia Answer: Who Was That Cat, Anyway?

So, there’s two answers for Thursday’s trivia question. There’s the assumed one and the real one. Confused yet? We asked what was the first non-human elected to public office in the U.S. and where did it happen. As a hint, we showed a picture of a cat.

Now yes, as the story goes, Stubbs the cat took over as mayor in the town of Talkeetna, Alaska in July 1997. He then kept getting re-elected until his death in 2017. That’s a pretty loyal voting base. The story is that voters in the area were tired of the human candidates and wanted to pick someone else as a protest vote.

There’s just one problem. The town isn’t an actual town. It’s a historic district and it doesn’t have a mayor. So while the residents jokingly gave that title to Stubbs, he wasn’t actually elected to a position.

Instead, to find the first elected animal, we have to go back to 1938. Republican Party members in Milton, Washington assembled to pick a committeeman, someone to represent them at the county meetings.

No one spoke up to take the position, but there was one written nomination. It was for a Mr. Boston Curtis. The members shrugged, said sure and voted Curtis in.

According to the archives at the Milwaukee Journal, from their Sept. 30, 1938 edition, “Boston Curtis, a mule, has been elected as Republican committeeman in the town of Milton, Washington. Boston was entered in the race by the Democratic mayor and received 51 votes – without offering a platform or making a speech.”

The mayor said he had just written down the mule’s name as a joke and never expected anyone to actually vote for him.