Maybe it's just me, but it seemed like we were hit with all four seasons last week.
While we'll be off to another chilly (and rainy) start this week, the second half of the week will be really nice, according to WAVY, with sunny skies and temperatures getting up into the 50s.
Nonetheless, local meteorologists are keeping an eye on a cold front that's expected to move through this weekend, which they say could bring more chances for snow. We'll have to see!
There are some interesting events coming up locally, which you can read about at the end of the newsletter. If you have an event you'd like to submit for consideration, please send me an email at email@example.com. I'm also always open to receiving your questions, suggestions and feedback, so please reach out any time.
Now to the news.
The university sent out a message to students and staff on Tuesday to announce Covid-19 vaccinations will no longer be a requirement for enrollment, The Virginia Gazette reports.
The decision comes in light of an opinion released last week by AG Jason Miyares, who argued that institutions of higher education in the state "may not require vaccination against Covid-19 as a general condition of students' enrollment or in-person attendance."
W&M and most other public universities in Virginia previously required all students to get vaccinated in order to attend classes on campus, with the exception of students who received a medical or religious exemption. Students were also required to receive a booster to attend the spring semester.
According to Amy Sebring, W&M's Chief Operating Officer, the change in guidance will have a negligible impact on the current semester. Essentially all non-exempt students taking classes on campus have already been vaccinated and 9 in 10 have been boosted, she said in a statement.
While W&M is changing its vaccination requirements, the school will keep its current quarantine policies in place. All students who test positive are required to isolate for a period of at least five days, and masks will still be mandatory on campus.
Other universities throughout Hampton Roads have similarly revised their vaccine policies for the Spring 2022 semester, including Christopher Newport University, Norfolk State University and Old Dominion University, according to 13NewsNow.
The shop - Two Drummer's Butcher & BBQ Provisions - is located at 118 Second Street. The site previously housed the 6 Crabs seafood restaurant. The owners, brothers Jason and Jon Wade, have won awards for their popular barbeque throughout the country, according to WYDaily.
Two Drummers is the only butcher shop in Williamsburg. It sells a wide variety of meats, from Angus beef to chicken to bacon. You'll also find specialty items there, like sauces, seasonings and barbeque supplies.
Want to check them out? They're currently open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11:00 am - 7:00 pm and Sundays, 11:00 am - 5:00 pm.
The county's economic development director, Jim Noel, said that the area's vacancy rate is not "super high," the Peninsula Chronicle reports. Nonetheless, he acknowledged that the pandemic - combined with the might of online retailers like Amazon - has created a concerning situation for the future of retail in the area.
With those factors in mind, the county signed an agreement with a firm called Retail Strategies, which has relationships with national retailers. The firm has conducted a thorough analysis of the county and will now work to recruit businesses that will be a good fit for the community.
According to Noel, the county is especially interested in filling the vacancies that exist in the former Super Kmart store at Kiln Creek and in the Marquis Shopping Center.
The boy, Codi Bigsby, was reported missing Monday morning by his father, Cory Bigsby, according to WAVY News. Cory told police he last saw his son around 2:00 a.m Monday and then woke up later that morning to find him missing. The boy was last seen wearing all-black clothing and Spider-Man flip-flops.
Cory was named a top person of interest in the child's disappearance on Wednesday, 13NewsNow reports. On Thursday evening, he was arrested on 7 counts of child neglect - and those charges are reportedly not connected to Codi's disappearance.
Volunteers say that even though the case has attracted continual media attention, many locals were still unaware of the boy's disappearance as of Saturday night.
Flyers have been distributed throughout the Buckroe Pointe Apartments community - where Codi lived and was last seen - asking for people to report any possibly helpful information to police. Police are hoping some neighbors might have doorbell cameras that could help reveal more details about Codi's disappearance.
“We’ve called every resource and have every resource out here," said Hampton Police Chief Mark Talbot during a press conference Monday.
Officials are urging anyone who has seen Codi, his siblings or his father since Christmas to call the FBI at 1-800-FBI.
The decision by a Virginia Circuit Court judge temporarily blocks Youngkin's executive order, which allows parents to choose whether or not to send their child to school with a face covering, Axios reports.
The school boards currently filing the lawsuit against the governor's office include Alexandria City, Arlington County, Fairfax County, Hampton City and Prince William County, according to WAVY News. The districts represent a combined total of about 350,00 students.
School boards throughout Virginia held votes in recent days to determine how their district would respond to the governor's policy change.
Some lifted the mandates, but others - including most school divisions in Hampton Roads - kept the mask requirement in place. Most school boards that declined to implement the mask-optional policy said that doing so would conflict with state law, which requires schools to follow CDC guidance to the closest extent possible.
"While the General Assembly has granted the Governor significant and sweeping general powers to address an emergency, when confronted with a specific statute addressing the manner in which in-person learning can resume and directs local school boards to follow the guidance of the CDC, 'the maximum extent practicable,' it does not follow that the Governor, even in an emergency, can direct School Boards to ignore the General Assembly’s deference to CDC guidance and to abandon their considered determination about what is practicable," the judge, Louise M. DiMatteo wrote in the decision.
DiMatteo's temporary restraining order means children must continue to wear masks in school, even if they had previously lifted the mandate following the governor's order.
Local Covid-19 Update
New cases: ➕ Community transmission across the Peninsula remains high, according to the CDC Covid-19 data tracker. However, the good news is that cases in Virginia dropped again compared to the prior week. VDH reported a total of 46,431 cases in the Commonwealth as of Friday, down from 73,878 the week before.
On the Peninsula this past week, the numbers are also down in every county compared to last week. Newport News recorded +631 cases, Hampton logged +481, James City County reported +338 and York County had +202, according to WTVR.
Hospitalizations and deaths: 🚑 Statewide, there are a total of 2,284 patients in the hospital with Covid-19 (down 665 from last week), according to VHHA data. 438 of those patients are in the ICU, and 262 are on ventilators.
While all of those numbers dropped compared to last week, VDH also reported an additional 576 deaths during the week ending February 5. That's up substantially from a week ago, and it also marks the highest number of deaths since the week ending March 5, 2021, according to WTOP. Deaths have been a lagging indicator throughout the pandemic.
Vaccination rate:💉70.1% of Virginians are fully vaccinated (up from 68.8% last week).
The oldest African penguin in the world - who lives at Metro Richmond Zoo - just turned 42.
The penguin, named ET, recently celebrated her 42nd birthday. She's the oldest of her kind currently alive in the world, according to WRIC. The average lifespan for an African penguin is 15 to 20 years; however, the zoo said they can live much longer when well cared for in zoological parks.
ET has been a resident at Metro Richmond Zoo since 1995. While penguins mate for life, she's outlived two previous mates. Nonetheless, she found love once again with another penguin at the zoo named Einstein, and the two "have their own private space so she can spend her senior years without any penguin drama," the zoo said in an Instagram post.
The zoo said that while ET has arthritis and some vision impairment, she is in good health for her age and, as a favorite of the staff, receives "lots of love and care."
Employers added 467,000 jobs in January, which was significantly more than expected. Most experts anticipated dismal gains amid the Omicron surge, Axios reports. The strong numbers suggest that the U.S economy remains resilient, despite persistent challenges.
Where the jobs are: The figures show that many of the jobs added in January were in the leisure and hospitality (151,000 jobs), retail (61,000 jobs) and transportation and warehousing (54,000 jobs) sectors.
"In January, job gains occurred in couriers and messengers (+21,000), warehousing and storage (+13,000), truck transportation (+8,000), and air transportation (+7,000). All four of these component industries have surpassed their February 2020 employment levels, with particularly strong growth in warehousing and storage (+410,000) and couriers and messengers (+236,000)," the U.S Department of Labor said in a press release.
Behind the numbers: Many of the biggest gains were in categories that tend to have seasonal patterns. While such jobs often cut their temporary employees in January, it appears more businesses decided to retain those employees.
"Due to the statistical process of seasonal adjustment, 'cutting fewer workers than usual for this time of year' gets translated into 'adding lots of jobs,'" Axios reported in an analysis.
The Department of Labor acknowledged that Omicron still had a substantial impact on the job market.
According to the data, 6 million people weren't able to work because their employers closed or lost business because of the pandemic - up sharply from 3.1 million in December.
In addition, the unemployment rate also rose slightly to 4%, and private payrolls also fell by 301,000 - the "biggest drop-off since the start of the pandemic," the Washington Post reports.
Nonetheless, the report gives workers some reasons to be optimistic. The stats show that the U.S jobs market is still trucking ahead. In addition, hourly earnings have risen by 5.7% in the last year, suggesting that employers are having to increase pay to fill jobs.
Other headlines in the nation:
U.S officials say Russia has assembled 70% of the military presence it needs to launch a full-scale Ukraine invasion. (ABC News)
Long Covid is playing a role in the U.S labor shortage. (Axios)
Olympians testing positive for Covid say they're facing unbearable situations at "quarantine hotels" in Beijing. (AP News)
Queen Elizabeth is marking a historic 70 years on the throne this week. (Reuters)
Amazon Prime memberships will be more expensive soon, but you can still lock in the current rate for another year. (CNet)
Teach Them Diligently - The Hennage Auditorium at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. Embark on a journey with lifelong Colonial Virginia teacher Ann Wager as she runs the Williamsburg Bray School - the first school in Virginia for African American children. Learn how the experience changes Ann's perspective on slavery and education in the Colonial era. Sundays, Feb. 6, 13, and 20 at 1:30 pm. Included with art museum admission or a Good Neighbor pass.
WRL Youth Art Show - Middle and high school students in James City County, York County and the City of Williamsburg are invited to submit hangable, original artwork to be included in the Williamsburg Regional Library Youth Art Show. The show will take place between March 6 - March 31, and all submissions must be received by February 25.
Black History Month at the Virginia Living Museum - VLM will be offering special activities relating to African American scientists all month long.
Hearts for Homeless Pets - Now through Valentine's Day, Heritage Humane is running a Hearts for Homeless Pets campaign. Customize a paper heart with a pet lover's name, pet name or special message for $10 per heart. Each heart will be displayed in the adoption center front lobby throughout the month of February.
"Snow Many Books" Reading Challenge - Virtual. Williamsburg Regional Library is running a reading challenge for kids throughout the month of February. Participants can log on to wrl.beanstack.org all month long to log their reading progress, complete activities and ultimately earn 3-D pieces to build a snowman.
Black History Month Reading Challenge - Newport News Public Library (Virtual). Participants who spend 420 minutes reading books written by or about African Americans will receive a completion badge and a prize.
Busch Gardens Mardi Gras - Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. Jan. 28 - Feb. 27. Features jazzy live music, Mardi Gras-inspired food, colorful entertainment and more. Suitable for guests of all ages. Fridays, 3:00 - 8:00 pm and Saturdays and Sundays, 12:00 - 6:00 pm.
Afterschool Crafts - James City County Library. Monday - Thursday, 4:00-7:00 pm; Friday, 4:00-6:00 pm. This drop-in event features new crafts every week.
Looking for more ways to celebrate Black History Month? Check out this cool list of events from News 3, which is being continually updated.
Community Yoga at the Waterman's Museum - 309 Water St. in Yorktown. Participants should bring their yoga mat and meet at the Carriage House. Classes are suitable for all levels and beginner-friendly. Proceeds will be donated to the Watermen's Museum. $10. 6:00-6:50 pm.
Family Movie Night - Pearl Bailey Library in Newport News. All ages are welcome to this family event; pre-registration is required.
Alfred Hitchcock: His Life and Works - Stryker Center in Williamsburg. Explore the life and works of director Alfred Hitchcock's six-decade career. Classic Hitchcock films like North by Northwest will be reviewed. Masks are required for all visitors. Free. 2:00 pm.
Drumming for Wellness - James City County Recreation Center. Students will learn basic meditation techniques and drumming skills at this event. No musical experience is needed and all instruments will be provided. Ages 16+. 5:30-7:00 pm.
Miramar with Rosette String Quartet - Williamsburg Regional Library. This musical group's core repertoire features music from throughout Latin America with an emphasis on women composers as well as music from Puerto Rico. Free and open to the public. Masks required indoors.
James City County Household Chemical Collection - Warhill High School. Hazardous materials and computers will be accepted at this event. Permissible materials include paints, pesticides, solvents, fuels, auto products and other chemicals. See the Virginia Peninsula's Public Service Authority website for a full list of accepted items.
Busch Gardens Spring Job Fair - Busch Gardens Training Center. Currently available jobs include but aren't limited to photography specialist, merchandise, food service, ride attendants, guest arrival cashiers and more. All who apply online and attend the job fair will receive a free single-day ticket.
Yorktown Valentine's Day Winter Market - Riverwalk Landing (331 Water St.). Support your favorite vendors and artists and buy uniquely crafted and locally grown products. Baked goods, fresh meats and produce and more will also be available. 10:00 am - 2:00 pm.
Fireside Civil War Tour of Yorktown - Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters (411 Main St.). This tour - held in Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters' backyard around the fire put - explores the Civil War era of Yorktown, with a focus on the Peninsula Campaign of 1862. Tickets are $10, free for children under 12. 1:00 - 2:00 pm.
"Starting from Seed" - Tabb Library. Jumpstart your vegetable garden by joining Master Gardeners, who will offer tips and tricks to help you start growing your own plants from seeds. 3:00 pm.
History Hike, 1st & 2nd Parallel - Hike with a Historian and American History Educator through the National Park and learn interesting historical facts. This particular hike will focus on the science and technology behind the Allied victory against the British at Yorktown. Participants must be able to hike on uneven terrain for an hour and should bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated. 1:00 - 2:00 pm. Tickets are $10.