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News to Know for Dec. 21: Omicron cases surge; Time capsule opening; Shortest day of the year

Published: Dec. 21, 2021 at 6:31 AM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Since it’s the shortest day of the year, let’s not waste time. Here’s a quick glance at the news you need to know.

Another Chilly Morning

But don’t worry, it will get much warmer by Christmas Day.

Today will be mostly cloudy with a few showers possible in the evening and overnight. Highs stay in the mid-40s. By Christmas Day, highs are expected to be back in the low to mid-60s

Omicron Cases Surge

An unvaccinated man with health issues has become the first person in the United States whose death has been linked to COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The variant has overtaken delta as the dominant coronavirus strain in the country. According to the CDC, more than 73 percent of new cases in the country are caused by omicron.

The omicron variant of the coronavirus is now the dominant strain in the United States,...
The omicron variant of the coronavirus is now the dominant strain in the United States, accounting for more than 73% of new COVID cases.

President Joe Biden plans to increase support for hospitals, improve access to COVID-19 testing through hundreds of millions of rapid at-home tests and expand the availability of vaccines that can reduce the risks from the omicron variant. He’s expected to speak today at 2:30 p.m.

What About Holiday Travel?

As the U.S. sees a surge in COVID-19 cases ahead of the holiday season, travelers are also taking more precautions to stay safe.

This comes as AAA predicts more than 109 million people will board a plane or drive to their destinations for Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Experts recommend getting tested either days before or the day of getting together with family. However, people who are vaccinated and boosted should feel comfortable being together this holiday season.

How’s Virginia Doing?

As of Friday, the commonwealth has only had two confirmed cases of the omicron variant but health officials say they expect to see that number rise after the holidays.

Meanwhile, the state’s testing positivity rate is soaring to 9.3 percent.

Nearly 3,000 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours and Virginia continues to average about 25 deaths a day from COVID-19.

VCU Hazing Case Update

Two of the 11 people charged in the hazing death of VCU freshman Adam Oakes are due in court today.

Adam Oakes
Adam Oakes(N/A)

Reports say Andrew White plans to plead guilty or no contest to misdemeanor charges of hazing and giving alcohol to a minor. According to the prosecutor, White was Oakes’ “big brother” in the Delta Chi fraternity. Each misdemeanor he faces is punishable by up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine.

There is also a procedural, status hearing for Benjamin Corado, another person who was charged.

Oakes died of alcohol poisoning following an off-campus fraternity party in February.

Richmond Redistricting

Today, Richmond City Council is holding a special meeting to discuss the redistricting schedule for the city. The process will impact council and school board election districts.

The meeting is not open for in-person attendance - click here to watch on the city’s website. If you’d like to make a comment, you must contact the city clerk’s office by 10 this morning. The meeting is at 1 p.m.

Time Capsule Opening

Happening today - or tomorrow - crews plan to open the copper box that was uncovered from deep within the pedestal that once held the Robert E. Lee statue.

The discovery of a copper box was made by crew members working to disassemble the pedestal.
The discovery of a copper box was made by crew members working to disassemble the pedestal.(NBC12)

A newspaper article from 1887 suggests the capsule contains Civil War memorabilia and a “picture of Lincoln lying in his coffin” - although historians believe it’s doubtful the picture is an actual photograph.

The Governor’s Office says the box will be opened at the state Department of Historic Resources either Tuesday or Wednesday. We’ll be sure to let you know what they find.

Farmers Market Upgrade

In Henrico, the Dorey Park farmers market will soon get $16,000 in upgrades thanks to a new state grant program!

They plan to use the money to add electricity for vendors, landscaping to outline the market space, new signage and a new building.

The grant program looks to support local food systems with infrastructure improvements while also giving consumers access to fresh, local products.

Winter is Officially Here!

Well, at 10:59 a.m. anyway. The day is also known as the winter solstice - the shortest day and longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere.

The sun will sit at its lowest point in the sky and will stay the same for a few days after.

After Dec. 21, the days will grow longer until the summer solstice in June.

Final Thought

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” — John Steinbeck.

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