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News to Know for Dec. 23: COVID cases surging; Inside the time capsule; Northam reflects on time as governor

Virginia’s coronavirus cases are spiraling in the wrong direction just before the holidays.
Virginia’s coronavirus cases are spiraling in the wrong direction just before the holidays.
Published: Dec. 23, 2021 at 7:04 AM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia’s coronavirus cases are spiraling in the wrong direction just before the holidays.

COVID Cases Surging

Virginia reported nearly 6,000 new cases Wednesday, the fourth-highest case count for the state from the entire pandemic.

The testing positivity rate is now up to 10 percent.

Hospitalizations are also climbing back up - now over 1,500. During the delta wave, hospitalizations were over 2,000.

These trends are similar to what’s happening across the U.S., as omicron has now been confirmed in all 50 states.

Any Good News?

Two new British studies provide some early hints that the omicron variant of the coronavirus may be milder than the delta version. Scientists do stress that sheer numbers of infections could still overwhelm hospitals.

But in a season of setbacks, another glimmer of hope: U.S. health regulators authorized the first pill against COVID-19, a Pfizer drug that Americans will be able to take at home to head off the worst effects of the virus.

The drug, Paxlovid, is a faster way to treat early COVID-19 infections, though initial supplies will be extremely limited. All of the previously authorized drugs against the disease require an IV or an injection.

How You Can Help

Besides getting vaccinated and following social distancing, the Red Cross is in dire need of blood as it sees a drop in both donors and volunteers.

Hospitals like to have a 5-day blood supply on hand but the supply right now is only lasting half a day. The pandemic canceled many blood drives and overwhelmed several hospitals.

In the past year, Virginia has seen a 41 percent drop in new donors. Click here to learn more.

Inside the Time Capsule

We finally know what is inside the time capsule recovered from the Robert E. Lee monument!

It took historians nearly five hours to open the lid. Inside, there were three books, a coin and a cloth envelope.

The artifacts will be placed inside a freezer to prevent them from molding. Once they’re stable enough, historians will be able to take a closer look.

There’s no specific time frame, but it could happen sometime next week.

Governor Northam Reflects

After four years embroiled in a scandal and pandemic, these are the final days Ralph Northam will sit behind his desk as Virginia’s 73rd governor. Northam says he brought about major changes – from repealing the death penalty to legalizing recreational marijuana.

But he admits a lot of that progressive change was fueled by the fallout of his own scandal. An image from Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook showing a man in blackface next to someone wearing a KKK robe. He apologized and says he committed himself to listening and learning.

On his way out, Northam warns the pandemic and its effects are far from over. He and his wife will return to Norfolk. The governor is going back to being a doctor and Pamela Northam will work for an environmental nonprofit.

The Northams will attend the inauguration Saturday, Jan. 15. He will take Sunday off and then it’s back to work on Monday.

Student Loan Pause Extended

The Biden administration extended a student loan moratorium that has allowed tens of millions of Americans to put off debt payments during the pandemic.

Under the action, payments on federal student loans will remain paused through May 1. Interest rates will remain at 0% during that period, and debt collection efforts will be suspended.

Those measures have been in place since early in the pandemic but were set to expire on Jan. 31.

It’s a Sunshine Day

But don’t let those rays fool you - it’s still very chilly!

Highs will remain in the mid-40s Thursday before a warm-up just in time for Christmas.

Final Thought

“Remember that very little is needed to make a happy life.”― Marcus Aurelius

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