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2021 in review: Millions get shots but COVID persists; cannabis is legal and Youngkin leads GOP sweep

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Virginia appeared to make progress in a second year of COVID-19, as millions got vaccinations and booster shots, the state lifted restrictions, students returned to class and many businesses rebounded, despite staffing shortages.

But as 2021 drew to a close, Virginia reported daily record-breaking totals of new COVID cases as the surging omicron variant proved the pandemic is far from over. As with previous COVID surges, Black and Latino Virginians are still among those facing the greatest risk of infection, hospitalization and death.

The year began with a pro-Trump mob storming the U.S. Capitol in an effort to bar President-elect Joe Biden from taking office. Virginia’s year in politics ended with Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin preparing for his inauguration after leading a stunning GOP sweep of statewide offices.

In between, on Gov. Ralph Northam’s watch, Virginia abolished the death penalty, legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana and removed the Robert E. Lee statue from Monument Avenue.

In Richmond, residents voted down a proposed casino, giving some thoughts of trying again in Petersburg. In more somber news, Richmond finished 2021 with its most homicides since 2004.

Here’s a look back at 2021 in Virginia.

January

Jan. 1: Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Russell, dies at 60 from complications related to COVID.

Jan. 7: The day after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner call for President Donald Trump’s removal via the 25th Amendment.

Jan. 13: Virginia’s delegation splits along partisan lines as the U.S. House impeaches Trump a second time, charging him with inciting the insurrection. (In February, the Senate again acquits Trump.)

Jan. 20: Amid security precautions, many Virginians skip Biden’s inauguration, in which he calls for unity and Kamala Harris makes history in taking office as vice president.

Jan. 21: Virginia’s sports gambling market officially opens when a cellphone user places a $25 bet on the Golden State Warriors to beat the New York Knicks.

Jan. 27: The Virginia Senate censures Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, who had addressed a Jan. 6 pro-Trump rally and left before the mob violence. The censure cites “a pattern of unacceptable conduct” that “has been publicly displayed in a series of incendiary incidents.”

February

Feb. 1: The Richmond Electoral Board votes to remove Kirk Showalter as the city’s general registrar.

Feb. 5: Northam directs the state’s school superintendents to begin offering in-person learning by March 15.

Feb. 22: The House of Delegates and Virginia Senate back measures to abolish the death penalty.

Feb. 22: Six aspiring casino developers propose Richmond projects, hoping to become the city’s choice ahead of a November referendum.

Feb. 24: Northam lifts the stay-at-home curfew and allows expansion of alcohol sales.

Feb. 26: Goochland County Commonwealth’s Attorney D. Michael Caudill says a grand jury found two Virginia State Police troopers were justified in using deadly force in a Jan. 9 shooting that killed 18-year-old Xzavier Hill after a pursuit that reached speeds of 120 mph on Interstate 64 in Goochland.

Feb. 27: The House and Senate vote to legalize marijuana with retail sales by 2024, putting off key decisions on the regulatory framework.

Feb. 27: Adam Oakes, 19, a Virginia Commonwealth University freshman from Loudoun County, is found dead the morning after an off-campus Delta Chi fraternity rush event. Testing shows his blood alcohol content was 0.40%.

Feb. 28: Justin Thomas Regensburg of Chesterfield County is charged in the hit-and-run death of Henrico County police Capt. Donald L. Lambert Jr., who was struck the day before by a tow truck while jogging near his home. (Regensburg later pleads guilty to felony homicide and hit-and-run.)

March

March 4: The University of Richmond picks Kevin Hallock, dean of Cornell University’s business school, as its next president, to succeed Ronald Crutcher.

March 4: The state health department says a child in central Virginia is the state’s first person under 10 to die from COVID-19.

March 4: Northam announces he is backing Del. Jay Jones, D-Norfolk, not incumbent Mark Herring, in the Democratic primary for attorney general.

March 14: The Times-Dispatch reports that the state’s watchdog agency has found violations of law and policy in at least nine Virginia Parole Board decisions involving convicted killers.

March 20: COVID cases knock VCU out of the men’s NCAA basketball tourney before the Rams can play.

March 22: The Office of the State Inspector General fires Jennifer A. Moschetti, the investigator who found misconduct at the Virginia Parole Board.

March 24: Northam signs legislation to abolish the death penalty, saying: “It is the moral thing to do.” He signs the measure outside the Greensville Correctional Center, site of more than 100 of the state’s most recent executions.

March 26: Lucia Bremer, an eighth-grader at Quioccasin Middle School, is fatally shot in western Henrico. A 14-year-old boy is arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

March 26: The Times-Dispatch reports that Adrianne Bennett, as chairwoman of the Virginia Parole Board, unilaterally released more than 100 parolees from Virginia Department of Corrections supervision in violation of long-standing rules.

March 26: The Times-Dispatch reports that the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School has accepted more Black and Latino students for the upcoming 2021-22 school year than it has in five years. Around 8% of Black students who applied were accepted; 11.7% of Latino applicants got in.

March 31: The Times-Dispatch reports that VCU’s Delta Chi had a history of illegal parties and had been suspended before Oakes died.

April

April 1: Virginia eases restrictions on social gatherings, raising the limit from 10 to 50 people indoors and from 50 to 100 outdoors.

April 1: Bob Blue is named board chairman of Dominion Energy Inc.

April 2: Thomas F. Farrell II, who played a pivotal role in Virginia business and politics in his 15 years leading Dominion Energy, dies of cancer at 66.

April 4: Virginia hits 4 million vaccines administered, doubling in 31 days the total number of shots reported between Dec. 14 and March 5.

April 7: The General Assembly backs Northam’s proposal to let Virginians over 21 possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to four cannabis plants at home starting on July 1. The accelerated timeline is meant to curb the disparate impact of prohibition on people of color.

April 8: Micky Ogburn steps down as chairwoman of the Henrico School Board. Weeks earlier, Ogburn shared a post on Facebook that chastised the Dr. Seuss estate’s decision to stop publishing six books that portray Black and Asian people in stereotypical light.

April 15: Virginia Military Institute chooses Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins as its first Black superintendent as the school responds to allegations of systemic racism and sexism.

April 18: Richmond celebrates the 150th anniversary of historic Jackson Ward.

April 20: People who are gathered at the Lee statue on Monument Avenue praise the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for murdering George Floyd.

April 21: Northam announces Amazon plans to build a massive distribution center near the Richmond Raceway in Henrico.

April 25: Adele Johnson, executive director of the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia, dies of pancreatic cancer.

April 26: The U.S. Census Bureau says Virginia’s population grew by 630,000 people in the past 10 years, to 8.6 million.

April 27: Sharnez Hill, 30, and her 3-month-old daughter, Neziah Hill, are fatally shot outside at The Belt Atlantic apartments in South Richmond. Three others are wounded.

April 30: A federal jury finds Michael C. Hild, founder and former CEO of the now-defunct Chesterfield-based Live Well Financial, guilty of five criminal counts in a multimillion-dollar bond fraud scheme.

May

May 1: Virginia’s minimum wage rises from $7.25 per hour to $9.50 per hour.

May 10: Youngkin, a wealthy former private equity executive, tops five rivals to capture the Republican nomination for governor. Winsome Earle-Sears wins the party’s nomination for lieutenant governor and Del. Jason Miyares, R-Virginia Beach, for attorney general.

May 10: The state reports a single-day increase of just 336 cases and has its lowest levels of COVID-19 infections and hospital stays in a year.

May 11: Northam declares a state of emergency because of gasoline supply disruptions caused by a cyberattack on the operator of the Colonial Pipeline.

May 13: The state opens up vaccinations to kids ages 12 and above.

May 14: Virginia lifts its mask mandate, in keeping with new federal guidance that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or social distance in most situations. The state eases restrictions on restaurants, entertainment venues and indoor social gatherings.

May 14: Kasey Meredith becomes the first woman to serve as regimental commander of the Corps of Cadets in VMI’s 182-year history.

May 18: Northam outlines a $20 million plan to help the Virginia Employment Commission clear a backlog of 70,000 disputed claims and quickly respond to unemployed Virginians.

May 20: Richmond officials select Urban One’s casino project in South Richmond to go before city voters in a November referendum.

May 22: In a New York Times opinion piece, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney describes an “unintentional” use of tear gas by Richmond police on peaceful protesters a week after the killing of George Floyd. The piece contradicts Times-Dispatch reporting that on June 1, 2020, about 20 minutes before an 8 p.m. curfew — and without warning — Richmond police launched tear gas into a crowd of thousands, including families with children.

May 25: John W. Warner, a Republican who represented Virginia in the U.S. Senate for 30 years, dies of heart failure at 94.

May 28: Biden joins Northam in Alexandria to tout vaccination progress and the lifting of most of Virginia’s remaining COVID-19 restrictions. “We’re getting our lives back,” Biden says.

June

June 1: The Chesterfield School Board formally denounces critical race theory.

June 2: Virginia Tech linebacker Isimemen Etute, 18, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Blacksburg resident Jerry Paul Smith, 40. Etute told police he punched a sexual partner five times in the face and stomped on him after he learned the person he thought was a woman was actually a man, according to arguments presented in a Montgomery County courtroom. (A grand jury indicts Etute on the charge in October.)

June 3: VCU expels Delta Chi from campus, three months after Oakes was found dead from alcohol poisoning.

June 7: James Madison University falls to top-ranked Oklahoma in a semifinal game at the Women’s College World Series.

June 8: Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe tops four rivals in the Democratic primary, winning the party’s nomination for governor. Del. Hala Ayala, D-Prince William, wins the nomination for lieutenant governor, and Herring for attorney general.

June 11: Times-Dispatch columnist Michael Paul Williams receives the Pulitzer Prize “for penetrating and historically insightful columns that guided Richmond, a former capital of the Confederacy, through the painful and complicated process of dismantling the city’s monuments to white supremacy.”

June 23: Chesterfield supervisors endorse removing Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ name from the county’s stretch of Route 1.

June 24: Justin Harvey, a “serial predator” who filmed sex assaults on women in the Fan between 2015 and 2018, is sentenced to 127 years in prison.

June 29: The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts announces a $190 million expansion to be completed in 2025.

June 30: Virginia’s 15-month COVID state of emergency ends.

July

July 1: Marijuana legalization begins, allowing Virginia adults to possess up to an ounce for personal use.

July 1: State workers get 5% raises as the new fiscal year starts.

July 1: A pay raise of nearly $38,000 — to $255,622.18 — makes Henrico’s Amy Cashwell the highest-paid public school superintendent in the Richmond area.

July 5: Ten people across the Richmond region are shot and killed over the long July 4 holiday weekend, including Jamirah Washington, a 16-year-old girl shot at White Oak Village Shopping Center in Henrico.

July 7: A crew removes the statue of segregationist Gov. and U.S. Sen. Harry F. Byrd Sr. from Virginia’s Capitol Square, where it had stood since 1976.

July 9: Virginia halts admissions at five mental hospitals because they don’t have enough staff to safely care for patients.

July 10: Charlottesville takes down its statues of Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

July 13: CNBC again names Virginia the best state for business. (Virginia won in 2019; CNBC did not rank states in 2020.)

July 16: Northam proposes using $700 million in federal aid money to boost broadband.

July 17: Plan 9 Music in Carytown celebrates its 40th anniversary on national Record Store Day.

July 22: The State Board for Community Colleges approves the renaming of John Tyler Community College as Brightpoint Community College, dropping the name of the 10th U.S. president who was a slave owner who joined the Confederacy.

July 23: A train derailment drops 700 tons of coal into a Richmond canal. The causes differed, but after two derailments in the vicinity in six weeks, CSX adjusts the tracks near Tredegar Street to reduce the risk of another accident.

July 26: The Richmond City Council declares racism a public health crisis.

July 29: Virginia will not require people who live in areas where COVID is surging to wear masks in indoor public spaces, declining to make the latest federal guidance a requirement.

August

Aug. 3: The Times-Dispatch reports that some Richmond restaurants and music venues are requiring proof of vaccination.

Aug. 4: As COVID cases rise again, Stoney says Richmond city workers must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1.

Aug. 5: Northam says that starting Sept. 1, Virginia will require most state employees to show proof of vaccination or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

Aug. 8: Virginia Union University football player Quandarius Wilburn, 19, collapses and dies during conditioning drills. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner later says Wilburn died after suffering an acute sickle cell crisis.

Aug. 9: Virginia lawmakers adopt a budget that spends $3.4 billion in federal aid this year, while promising to use the remaining $1.1 billion for future commitments or as a hedge amid a COVID resurgence.

Aug. 10: The Chesterfield School Board approves a mask mandate. The Hanover County School Board votes against requiring students or staff to wear masks.

Aug. 11: Health officials say younger, unvaccinated patients are starting to fill Richmond-area hospital beds.

Aug. 12: The Northam administration mandates masks in schools after some local leaders reject CDC guidance.

Aug. 13: Census figures show that while Richmond remains a minority-majority city, its Black population fell below 50% over the past decade.

Aug. 13: Census data shows that 1 in 10 Virginians is Hispanic and a majority of Virginians under 18 are people of color.

Aug. 16: The Richmond School Board votes to require employees to be vaccinated by Oct. 1.

Aug. 16: Following the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says congressional panels must ask “why we weren’t better prepared for a worst-case scenario involving such a swift and total collapse of the Afghan government and security forces.”

Aug. 19: Lisa Schaffner, who worked at WRIC-TV and UNOS, dies at 59. An autopsy later determines that Schaffner died from a kidney infection stemming from a urinary tract infection.

Aug. 27: Northam says that of the first 14,000 Americans and Afghans to arrive in Virginia after evacuation from Afghanistan, fewer than 20 have tested positive for COVID-19.

Aug. 30: Youngkin calls for about $1.5 billion in recurring tax cuts, and close to $2 billion in one-time tax cuts.

Aug. 31: Northam grants posthumous pardons to The Martinsville Seven, who were executed 70 years ago for the rape of a white woman. He says they were denied due process. “These men were executed because they were Black and that’s not right.”

September

Sept. 3: At the start of the Labor Day weekend, Virginia records more than 4,000 new COVID cases two days in a row for the first time since January.

Sept. 5: Dawn Marie Harris, a Chesterfield school bus driver, dies of COVID complications at 54.

Sept. 6: More than 60,000 unemployed Virginians draw their last check from enhanced federal jobless benefits.

Sept. 8: Style Weekly publishes its last issue after nearly 39 years in Richmond.

Sept. 8: After the state Supreme Court clears the way, workers remove the Lee statue from the Monument Avenue pedestal where it had stood since 1890. Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, says: “Removing this statue is like lifting a weight off of our shoulders.”

Sept. 14: Mable B. Jones of Richmond, former owner of the troubled Jones & Jones assisted living home on Forest Hill Avenue, pleads guilty to health care fraud. Authorities say she spent $800,000 in government benefits — intended for the residents — on gambling, casino trips and other personal expenses.

Sept. 16: The Times-Dispatch reports that the number of children in Virginia hospitalized with COVID-19 is surging, with at least 252 either positive for the virus or suspected of having it, a figure five times higher than at the start of July.

Sept. 17: The Virginia Department of Corrections says state prisons are experiencing their worst-ever staffing crisis.

Sept. 17: State Corporation Commission staff says Dominion Energy earned more than $1.1 billion above a fair profit from its Virginia customers in four years, according to testimony filed in an ongoing review of the monopoly utility’s books.

Sept. 22: The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission unveils the Emancipation and Freedom Monument before an enthusiastic crowd on Brown’s Island.

Sept. 25: The Times-Dispatch reports that records show officials at the Department of Corrections obstructed Virginia jail investigator Steve Goff, who resigned under pressure.

Sept. 28: In the final gubernatorial debate, at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, McAuliffe says: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” It becomes a turning point for Youngkin’s campaign.

October

Oct. 2: A 16-year-old Hopewell boy accidentally shoots himself in the leg with a pistol made partially with a 3D printer.

Oct. 4: Richmond Public Schools raises its graduation rate to 78.8%, but falls short of the district’s earlier projected graduation rate of 85.7%.

Oct. 8: The Richmond Folk Festival makes a comeback (in the rain, of course.)

Oct. 12: The Chesterfield School Board backs the firing of Monacan High School government and social studies teacher Stephen Roszel for refusing to wear a mask.

Oct. 14: Susan DuPuis, a Henrico parent, reads an explicit passage of the 2015 novel “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Pérez to the Henrico School Board. Henrico Public Schools later removes eight copies of the book from school libraries.

Oct. 18: Dominion Energy, state regulatory staff and the state attorney general’s office announce an agreement that will result in customer refunds because the utility earned above its fair profit. Dominion is to dispense $255 million in refunds within six months and an additional $75 million over three years. Dominion says the typical customer will get about $67. The State Corporation Commission’s three judges sign off on the deal on Nov. 18.

Oct. 18: Dominion Energy’s Blue tells company employees that its political action committee failed to properly vet an anti-Youngkin PAC before giving it $200,000. He says it is asking for the money back. (Dominion declines to say whether the anti-Youngkin PAC returned the funds.)

Oct. 19: At a rally in Fairfax County, Youngkin calls on every school in the state to have a law enforcement officer on its campus, or face losing state education funding.

Oct. 20: Virginia’s new bipartisan redistricting commission bogs down along partisan lines and fails to produce maps of legislative and congressional districts, leaving the job to the Virginia Supreme Court.

Oct. 21: The regional board of the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School votes to remove the achievement portion of a two-part admissions test in hopes of boosting equity at the school.

Oct. 23: Former President Barack Obama campaigns with McAuliffe outside VCU’s James Branch Cabell Library.

Oct. 25: Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, a Spanish company that makes turbine blades for offshore wind farms, announces plans to operate a $200 million facility at Portsmouth Marine Terminal — the first facility of its kind in the U.S.

Oct. 26: The Virginia Public Access Project posts campaign finance figures that show Youngkin poured $3.5 million more of his own money into his bid in the first three weeks of October, bringing his personal contributions to $20 million.

Oct. 28: Linwood Holton, Virginia’s first Republican governor of the 20th century, remembered for his progressive views on race, dies at 98.

November

Nov. 2: Virginia Republicans sweep elections for all three statewide offices, as Youngkin beats McAuliffe for governor, Earle-Sears tops Ayala for lieutenant governor and Miyares edges Herring for attorney general. Earle-Sears is Virginia’s first woman of color elected to statewide office, Miyares the first Latino elected statewide. Republicans also take control of the House of Delegates. Youngkin pledges to “change the direction of this commonwealth,” focusing first on education and the cost of living.

Nov. 2: Richmond voters reject the $565 million One Casino and Resort proposed by Urban One.

Nov. 5: Dominion Energy’s Blue says on an earnings call for investors that the estimated cost to Dominion customers of a giant offshore wind farm has jumped from about $8 billion to about $10 billion.

Nov. 8: Richmond’s City Council votes to maintain the city’s real estate tax rate of $1.20 per $100 of assessed value, after considering a 6.5-cent rollback.

Nov. 8: The Richmond School Board bars Superintendent Jason Kamras from docking pay or firing teachers who failed to comply with the district’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate as long as they agree to weekly testing by the school system.

Nov. 9: The Hanover School Board votes down a proposal to let transgender students use bathrooms and locker rooms that conform to their preferred identity, but approves policy revisions to let school officials “use the name and gender consistent with the student’s gender identity,” upon request of the student and parent.

Nov. 11: Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, says he will propose legislation to let Petersburg hold a referendum on whether to permit a casino.

Nov. 12: Abdul Bani-Ahmad, 9, and 14-year-old Rah’quan “Ompa” Logan are killed and two men are wounded in a drive-by shooting outside OMG Convenience Store on Nine Mile Road in Richmond’s East End. Police arrest 18-year-old Clintoine Kenyahn Baker and three 17-year-old boys in the slayings.

Nov. 12: The Times-Dispatch reports that Diversity Thrift has agreed to raise base pay and start sex harassment training following employee protests over working conditions and their contention that store management mishandled a sexual harassment allegation.

Nov. 13: The Richmond Marathon returns to its usual course, with 14,500 runners.

Nov. 14: The House GOP picks Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, for speaker of the House and Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott, for majority leader.

Nov. 15: Biden signs the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Virginia officials say Richmond’s 1913 Mayo Bridge is among sites that will benefit.

Nov. 15: The Times-Dispatch reports that Richmond-area rental prices are surging, according to CoStar, a real estate analytics firm. At the start of January 2020, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom unit was $1,050. In November 2021, it reached $1,195.

Nov. 16: Virginia budget officials expect the state to have an unprecedented $13 billion in additional revenues over this year and the next two fiscal years combined.

Nov. 16: Virginia Tech and football coach Justin Fuente part ways. Tech names Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry as its new coach.

Nov. 23: A Charlottesville jury orders 17 white nationalist leaders and organizations to pay more than $26 million in damages over the violence at the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally, The Associated Press reports.

Nov. 23: The Times-Dispatch reports that William “Jody” Blackwell, who temporarily led the Richmond Police Department at the height of civil unrest in the summer of 2020, is suing the city for wrongful termination and breach of contract.

Nov. 28: The Times-Dispatch reports that within two years, Joye B. Moore’s Joyebells Sweet Potato Pies business has gone from making about 100 to 200 pies a month to making about 1,800-plus pies monthly, mostly to stock area Food Lion stores.

December

Dec. 1: More than three years after a Richmond police officer killed Marcus-David Peters, who was in a psychiatric crisis, Virginia launches the Marcus Alert system in Richmond and four other areas. It is meant to prompt quick responses to mental health emergencies, ideally without law enforcement.

Dec. 2: Bronco Mendenhall says he will step down as the University of Virginia’s football coach after the season. UVA hires Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott as its next coach.

Dec. 3: Kevon Bynum pleads guilty in the April murders of Sharnez Hill and her infant daughter, Neziah, at South Richmond’s Belt Atlantic. Four others face charges.

Dec. 3: U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tours Jackson Ward to herald a plan to reconnect the historically Black Richmond community.

Dec. 5: A state audit finds that Virginia agencies have failed to competently provide information to almost half a million residents who speak little or no English, forcing them to navigate documents and websites that barely meet basic standards of translations.

Dec. 6: The Richmond School Board approves collective bargaining for public school teachers.

Dec. 8: Youngkin says he will use executive power to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Dec. 8: Chesterfield Administrator Joe Casey says the county’s real estate tax will drop from 95 cents to 93 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Dec. 9: Henrico plans to drop its real estate tax from 87 cents to 85 cents per $100 of assessed value. (Hanover’s rate is 81 cents.)

Dec. 12: A ransomware attack forces the shutdowns of computer systems and websites for Virginia legislative agencies and commissions.

Dec. 14: Northam proposes eliminating the state’s 1.5% sales tax on groceries and to give Virginia taxpayers a one-time $250 rebate, or $500 for married couples.

Dec. 16: A Henrico circuit court judge overturns a lower court’s decision, paving the way for county prosecutors to try Dylan A. Williams, 15, as an adult in the slaying of Lucia Bremer.

Dec. 17: CoStar Group Inc. announces plans to build a 26-story office building along the James River that would be Richmond’s largest skyscraper.

Dec. 17: Workers find a box in the Lee statue’s pedestal, but it’s not the time capsule they were seeking. This one is an apparent homage to the pedestal’s builders.

Dec. 18: Northam’s press secretary says the governor is reversing a decision by his health commissioner to lay off 14 people who monitor drinking water in the state. The governor’s office says it did not know about the layoffs until The Times-Dispatch reported on the issue.

Dec. 19: Facing an ongoing bus driver shortage, GRTC implements service cuts on more than a dozen routes.

Dec. 20: Youngkin announces his first Cabinet pick, Aimee Rogstad Guidera as secretary of education. Guidera is the former head of a nonprofit that promotes use of data to improve student outcomes.

Dec. 20: A two-month lockout of unionized workers at DuPont’s Spruance plant in Chesterfield ends. The company and the union that represents the employees say a new five-year labor agreement has been approved.

Dec. 20: The Virginia Supreme Court announces that Donald W. Lemons will step down as chief justice at the end of the year. His colleagues elect Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn to succeed him.

Dec. 21: Former VCU student Andrew White, one of 11 men charged in connection with Oakes’ death, pleads guilty to two misdemeanors — hazing and serving alcohol to a minor.

Dec. 21: Fire engulfs the McLean home of former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Chuck Robb. He and former Virginia first lady Lynda Robb are treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

Dec. 25: The Times-Dispatch reports that as of Christmas, Richmond prosecutors counted 90 homicides in 2021, the city’s most slayings since it recorded 95 in 2004.

Dec. 28: State conservation experts open the 1887 time capsule from the Lee statue’s pedestal, a day after workers found the elusive copper box. Its contents include a Confederate battle flag carved in wood, faded Confederate money, Minié balls and a Bible.

Dec. 29: Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, says she will run in the new 7th District, based in Northern Virginia, a day after the Virginia Supreme Court signs off on Virginia’s new congressional and legislative boundaries.

Dec. 30: The city of Richmond and state officials announce plans to give Richmond’s Confederate monuments to the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia, including the state-owned Lee statue and its graffiti-covered plinth.

Dec. 30: Virginia reports a record 13,500 new coronavirus cases, breaking the record of 12,122 new cases set the day before. An association of emergency physicians calls on Northam to declare a new state of emergency. Some restaurants and bars cancel New Year’s Eve festivities.

As the year closed with another COVID surge, Northam said Virginia’s soaring case numbers are “a reason for concern but not a reason for panic.”

While the state has had more than a million COVID cases and more than 15,500 deaths since March 2020, Northam noted that Virginians have now received 14 million vaccination shots.

He added: “Nearly everyone going to the hospital with COVID is unvaccinated.”

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