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Virginia Updates for Nov. 29 📬

Welcome back, Community! We hope everyone had a wonderful and delicious Thanksgiving Holiday, full of mashed potatoes, pie and long naps.

Today we’re recapping some events that happened last week and what to expect coming up. First, we cover the amazing Marching Force team at Hampton University who made waves at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (find the video linked below)

Then we cover some previous news on mental health days, what laws protect it and how parents/guardians can help their child request an absence.

We also breakdown the latest on redistricting what to expect next. And latestly, we share some recent news on drug overdoses in Virginia and share some resources for those who may know someone or themselves struggling with sugstabse abuse.

Here are this week's Virginia Updates -- we have news on;

▪️ Hampton University Goes to the Thanksgiving Parade

▪️ School Mental Health Days

▪️ The Latest on Redistrining

▪️ Drug Overdoses on the Rise

▪️ Update + Vaccine Data

▪️ COVID-19 Data

⚠ To learn more about COVID-19 in Virginia visit

Follow us @we_vote_va to stay best up to date on all that’s going on in Virginia

Virginia Goes to the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

During our holiday break, one group from Virginia was making waves in the Big Apple!

Bands from around the world travel to New York City for the parade of the season, but one school marching band was a “force” to be reckoned with.

The Marching Force was welcomed back to a surprise homecoming celebration complete with a DJ and Pete the Pirate. Dozens of students stepped off the bus and immediately started dancing to the music and cheering. University Bands Director Dr. Thomas Jones said 180 students performed during Thursday’s spectacle.

Hampton was the only Historically Black College or University to get an invitation to the 2021 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. You can watch their performance here.

School Mental Health Days

Kids have all taken a sick day from school, but what about a mental health day?

Districts in Virginia and North Carolina, as well as across the country, are starting to add periodic days off in response to the mental stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly passed House Bill 308 allowing schools to excuse the absences of students who took the day off for a reason related to mental or behavioral health.

The Director of Youth and Young Adult Initiatives for NAMI, Barb Solish, said;

"Embracing mental health days by schools helps normalize the conversation around mental health, which leads to understanding to empathy and more willingness to seek help when when you need it,"

Mental health concerns have also been at the forefront following the increase of shooting incidents, like at Heritage High School in Newport News which left two students injured.

To request a mental health day, Parents or Guardians should notify the schools that their child will be absent, and ask for any required work to catch-up on.

Taking a mental health day from school can look different among students, depending on the age of the child and their reason for needing a day off.

Some suggestions for a meaningful mental health day include:

  • Sleeping in and resting throughout the day

  • Reading, playing with toys, or crafting

  • Playing in the yard, or going for a walk, hike, or bike ride

  • Spending quality time with a parent, sibling, grandparent, guardian, or pet

  • Baking or doing something special with a family member

  • Watching a movie or playing video games together, but not all day

Solish says parents can start conversations with their children about mental health days by comparing it to taking a break when a person isn't physically feeling well. They can do the same for their emotional well-being.

If a child receives a mental health day, she says there's not perfect way to use it, but Solish also suggests being intentional with it.

"You can explore activities your child might find calming like taking a walk or spending time in nature, playing a card game, reading or listening to a book, drawing, baking really whatever works for them," she said. "Don't feel like you have to over schedule the day or push your kids to talk about their feelings all day."

Solish says parents can also be an example for prioritizing mental health.

She suggests eating and sleeping well in addition to making time for exercise and relaxation.

Visit this link to connect with licensed therapists throughout Virginia. They can be filtered for specific cities and counties, and for therapists offering telehealth appointments.

What’s the Latest on Redistricting?

In Virginia​, the Redistricting Commission did not complete legislative maps by the Oct. 24 deadline, and did not complete congressional maps by the Nov. 8 deadline, which meant that authority to redraw maps passed to the Virginia Supreme Court.

The Court requested the commissioners submit nominees for special masters to assist the Court in drawing the maps. On Nov. 1, Republicans and Democrats submitted three nominees each. The Court rejected all three Republican nominees and one Democratic nominee for special master on Nov. 12 and requested that legislators submit new nominations.

On Nov. 19, after commissioners submitted new nominees, the Court unanimously approved two of them: Sean Trende, who was the Republican special master nominee, and Bernard Grofman, who was the Democratic nominee.

Additionally, new state policy to redistribute the count of Virginia’s prison population based on inmates’ last-known addresses for the purposes of political redistricting could boost representation in the state’s city centers, leading with Norfolk and Richmond.

The change in how Virginia counts inmates applies only to localities’ populations for the redrawing of legislative and congressional districts. The Virginia Supreme Court has taken on the job of redrawing the boundaries after the state’s new redistricting commission bogged down along partisan lines.

Virginia is one of 11 states that reallocates its prison population count in this way.

Supporters of the policy say the change will help bring better representation to people who are incarcerated, whose families may still live in the districts where they resided, and will correct an imbalance of power that gives weight to the votes of people who happen to live near a prison.

Opponents say the new policy politically weakens Virginia’s rural areas and Republican voting strength.

Drug Overdoses on the Rise -- how you can stay safe:

Virginia is headed toward another record number of drug overdose deaths, which experts blame on social isolation and stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread trafficking of fentanyl.

Drug deaths in the commonwealth increased 22% during the first half of this year compared with the corresponding period of 2020, according to the latest report from the state medical examiner’s office.

In 2013, drug overdoses passed guns and motor vehicle collisions as the leading cause of “unnatural death” in Virginia. In 2020 so far, drug fatalities have exceeded the combined total of firearm and traffic deaths.

The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services is the state agency that helps people with substance use and addiction. The department has a toll-free telephone number — (877) 349 - 6428 — for crisis counseling during the pandemic.

-- Resources to address drug use and addiction --

The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services is the state agency that helps people with substance use and addiction. The department has a toll-free telephone number — 877-349-6428 — for crisis counseling during the pandemic. It also connects Virginians to community service boards, which provide local assistance.

The state also has created a website called Curb the Crisis, which offers advice for preventing overdoses and treating drug addiction. The site has information about how to get training to administer naloxone, the antidote for opioid overdoses.

The Substance Abuse and Addiction Recovery Alliance of Virginia is an advocacy group for people affected by substance use disorders and addiction. SAARA has recovery groups and information about the “Alive RVA Warm Line” — 833-473-3782.

The McShin Foundation is a nonprofit organization serving individuals and families in their fight against substance use disorders. The group provides a residential program and other support led by people experienced in addiction and recovery.

Narcotics Anonymous has a website listing virtual and in-person meetings in the Richmond area for addicts who wish to pursue and maintain a drug-free lifestyle.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has extensive resources about the opioid crisis, including a helpline (800-662-4357) and an online database of treatment facilities.

COVID Update + Vaccine Data

After 111 cases of multi-inflammatory syndrome were recorded in Virginia, the state’s Health Department on Friday reported the first child death from the COVID-19-related syndrome in the commonwealth.

Few details about the victim were provided, but the department said the child was between 10 and 19 years old and lived in Prince William County.

Multi-inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) causes previously healthy kids who have had COVID-19 to develop severe inflammatory syndrome with Kawasaki disease-like features, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was previously referred to as pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome.

In additional efforts to combat the pandemic, The Virginia Department of Health will be monitoring sewage in various parts of the state in an effort to predict future outbreaks of COVID-19. Testing sewage can help health officials gauge COVID-19 infection in a community. That’s because people who are sick shed the virus in bodily waste.


Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the child.


That's all for this week folks!

Please take care and respect one another, we are all in this together.

- Maria

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