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VIRUS OUTBREAK-VIRGINIA

Virginia coronavirus cases increase by more than 550

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia health authorities are reporting more than 550 new coronavirus cases, one of the largest 1-day increases since virus arrived in the state. The numbers released Saturday by the Virginia Department of Health also show the state’s death toll from COVID-19 increased from 231 to 258. That’s more than a 10 percent increase in a single day. The number of coronavirus cases reported Saturday increased to more than 8,000. That’s an increase of more than 560 from the nearly 7,500 cases reported Friday. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said Friday that the rate of new coronavirus cases in the state is still increasing.

SLAVE AUCTION MARKER

Virginia high court rejects bid to keep slave block in place

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) — The Virginia Supreme Court has rejected a petition to prohibit the city of Fredericksburg from moving a historic slave auction block. The sandstone block was installed in the city’s downtown in the 1840s. After years of debate the city council voted to moved the block to a museum. A judge upheld the move after business owners in the city sued to keep the stone where it is. But in February the judge delayed implementation of the order so the Supreme Court could take up the case. City officials say plans to move the block are currently on hold because of the coronavirus.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-JUVENILE DETENTION

Virginia juvenile detention center new coronavirus hotspot

BON AIR, Va. (AP) — Coronavirus has erupted inside a juvenile detention center in Virginia where officials said Friday 25 kids tested positive. That accounts for a quarter of all cases reported at youth facilities nationwide. Children’s rights advocates and health experts have been warning state officials for weeks that it was just a matter of time before the virus took off inside juvenile facilities. They have called on Gov. Ralph Northam to start releasing as many children as safely possible from centers, including at the newly hit Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center outside Richmond. More than half the 97 kids who have tested positive are in Virginia and Louisiana.

ABSENTEE BALLOTS-WITNESS REQUIREMENT

Virginia sued over witness requirement for absentee ballots

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union is asking a federal court to block Virginia election officials from requiring that absentee voters find a witness to watch them sign their ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of three voters and the League of Women Voters. The lawsuit says the witness requirement could cause “massive disenfranchisement” of Virginia voters. Under state law, any voter who submits an absentee ballot by mail must open the envelope containing the ballot in front of another person, fill out the ballot and then ask the witness to sign the outside of the ballot envelope before it is mailed.

AP-US-VIRUS-OUTBREAK-TRUMP-CREDIBILITY

Experts worry politics will guide voters' virus precautions

WASHINGTON (AP) — Public health experts are becoming concerned that people will use their partisan identification to decide which officials to believe whenever parts of the country start edging back to a new normal. President Donald Trump has wanted to move aggressively toward reviving the country's shuttered economy and phasing out stay-at-home orders from governors. But polls show that people trust Trump to handle the coronavirus pandemic less than they trust federal public health officials or their own governors. That's led to public confusion, which experts say is dangerous as the country battles to withstand the spread of the potentially fatal virus.

AP-US-VIRUS-OUTBREAK-CAPITAL-REGION

Maryland, Virgina and District coordinating virus response

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Top officials in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia are working closely together to coordinate their response to the coronavirus as all three continue to see a rise in confirmed cases. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser had a conference call Friday. Hogan says they have been in close contact from the beginning of the virus outbreak. They share a common link in proximity as well as the large numbers of federal workers who live and work in and around the nation's capital.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-VIRGINIA

Virginia reduces jail population by 17% amid coronavirus

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia has reduced its jail population by 17% in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Gov. Ralph Northam said Friday that the jail population in the state was 24,000 on April 7, down 17% from March 1. Virginia has also seen a 67% decline in the number of new commitments for misdemeanors across the state. Northam said the reduction was achieved through various steps, including decreasing the number of low-risk offenders being held without bail in jails and using alternatives to jail such as home electronic monitoring. Critics say the state hasn’t moved quickly enough to reduce the number of people being held in state prisons.

AP-US-VIRUS-OUTBREAK-PROTESTS

Pro-Trump protesters push back on stay-at-home orders

A growing number of protests are being staged across the U.S. to oppose stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic. In places like Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia, small-government groups, supporters of President Donald Trump, anti-vaccine advocates and others have united behind a deep suspicion of efforts to shut down daily life to slow the spread of the coronavirus. As their frustration grows, they’ve started to openly defy the social distancing rules to put pressure on governors to ease them. Some of the protests have been small events, promoted via recently created Facebook groups. Others are backed by groups with ties to Trump.