WMRA Feature

Local newspapers have felt the sting of the economic downturn.  Many have been furloughing and even laying off staff, including reporters.   WMRA’s Mike Tripp has the story.

Governor Northam announced that by executive order, Friday, June 19th of this year, also known as "Juneteenth" will be recognized as a holiday within the Commonwealth and all Executive Branch state offices will be closed.

Governor Northam announced plans to reopen Virginia schools in a press conference on Tuesday, June 9th, 2020. The plan laid out a phased opening, with physical distancing requirements in class rooms and on school buses, specific guidelines for school sports, teleworking and remote learning options, and mask requirements for staff and mask recommendations for students. School divisions will have flexibility to implement plans based on the needs of their localities.

Randi B. Hagi

It’s graduation season – but with most of Virginia in just phase two of reopening, schools are finding alternative ways to celebrate their graduating seniors. Rockingham County Public Schools held their ceremonies at the fairground this weekend, drive-in style. WMRA’s Randi B. Hagi reports.

Updated at 1:40 p.m. ET

Virginia will remove a statue honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in the city of Richmond "as soon as possible," Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday.

"Today, we're here to be honest about our past and talk about our future," Northam said, adding: "We have to confront where we've been in order to shape where we're going."

The statue will be placed into storage, where it will remain until government leaders and the community can discuss its future, according to the governor.

Mike Tripp

As Governor Ralph Northam continues to lift coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses, how are shops in downtown Staunton responding?  WMRA’s Mike Tripp has the story.

Calvin Pynn

Harrisonburg demonstrators joined global protests over racial injustices in America with a silent march Monday night. WMRA’s Calvin Pynn reports.

The Heavy Toll of COVID-19 on Local Latino Communities

May 29, 2020
Cat Modlin-Jackson

Since the Virginia Department of Health began reporting the ethnic breakdown of coronavirus cases, data have shown a consistently disproportionate hit in Latino communities, including those in Harrisonburg.  As Virginia Public Radio’s Cat Modlin-Jackson found, there’s more to the impact than what the numbers show.

Randi B. Hagi

The SUN SiNG Collective is a group of musicians and artists from across Virginia producing original work to protest the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines. They, along with their parent organization, ARTivism Virginia, are now broadcasting livestream concerts twice a month. WMRA’s Randi B. Hagi reports.

Virginia is preparing to decriminalize possession of an ounce or less of marijuana starting July 1. That means if a police officer finds that amount on your person or in your car for example, you’ll get a written citation and have to pay a $25 fine, rather than being charged with a crime. But some people may find not much has changed in the law, and in their lives.  WMRA’s Randi B. Hagi reports.

Virginia's Department of Labor says the jobless rate in the commonwealth surged to more than 10% in April.  The sharp rise in unemployment is creating a lot of new food insecurity.  WMRA’s Jessie Knadler checks in with the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank to find out how it’s dealing with the growing demand.

Court Square Theater

The Arts Council of the Valley announced this week that they will suspend operations at Court Square Theater for at least one year due to financial pressures, starting this summer. WMRA’s Calvin Pynn spoke with the Council’s executive director Jenny Burden about what the future holds.


Many organizations have had to get creative during these times to continue to serve the community, including American Shakespeare Center in Staunton. 

The Staunton Creative Community Fund is facilitating a virtual Rebuild and Recovery program for small business owners in the Shenandoah Valley who have been hurt by the economic downturn.  WMRA's Bob Leweke reports.

Free Clinic

As hospitals and doctor’s offices work on managing COVID-19, the Harrisonburg - Rockingham Free Clinic has also had to make some changes to adapt to the pandemic. 

Governor Ralph Northam says parts of Virginia may be ready to begin re-opening for business as early as next Friday, May 15th.  The Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville says that’s reckless.  WMRA’s Bob Leweke reports.

Courtesy of Sara Zia

Some people who would otherwise be fine with having a hospital procedure done are now avoiding the hospital out of fear of the novel coronavirus.  That includes some expectant mothers, more of whom are turning to out-of-hospital births. WMRA’s Jessie Knadler talks to local midwives about the surge of baby business, and the challenges they face.

Randi B. Hagi

Many of us are staying home, but when we do have to make a grocery run, we're also encountering egg shortages at our local grocery stores.  In response, some people are part of a new wave of backyard chicken-herders, buying up chicks at an unprecedented rate. WMRA’s Randi B. Hagi reports.

Deanna Reed is Mayor of Harrisonburg.  WMRA’s Bob Leweke spoke with her Monday morning (May 4), and started by asking for her view on why the city has had one of the highest concentrations of COVID-19 reported in Virginia.

Calvin Pynn

The Heritage Oaks golf course has been a contentious topic in Harrisonburg over the past two decades.  An online petition has more than 1000 signatures demanding the city stop subsidizing it, but on Sunday hundreds of supporters took to the course to show they want it to stay. WMRA’s Calvin Pynn reports.

Randi B. Hagi

The city of Harrisonburg, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Health and Sentara RMH, set up two mobile testing sites on Saturday afternoon to offer free COVID-19 tests to residents of the Northeast and Mosby Court neighborhoods, which were selected to increase testing access in diverse areas. WMRA’s Randi B. Hagi reports.

Calvin Pynn

Poultry workers and their advocates are concerned about working conditions in Rockingham County’s processing plants.  Monday afternoon, advocates held a local car rally to show solidarity for workers, and to send a message to those in power. WMRA’s Calvin Pynn reports.

The Wilmer family

There’s an urgent need for face masks as communities up and down the Valley attempt to flatten the curve of the coronavirus. Plenty of individuals and organizations have responded to the call.  WMRA's Jessie Knadler takes a look at this grass roots effort and how it’s brought a region in crisis together.

Pat Jarrett / VA Folklife

During the COVID-19 pandemic, artists and performers have been losing work and many have taken their craft online.  The VA Folklife Program recognized this and started the TRAIN program, which pairs master artists with students online. 

Mike Tripp

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to feel alone. One Staunton neighborhood handles the isolation by howling as a community each evening. WMRA’s Mike Tripp has the story.

Elliott Robinson is the news editor at Charlottesville Tomorrow, one of WMRA’s news partners.  Bob Leweke spoke with him about their latest reporting and what’s happening in Charlottesville during the COVID-19 crisis.

Earl Dotter of Oxfam America

The Shenandoah Valley’s poultry processing plants have continued to operate through the pandemic.  They are considered essential businesses under the governor's closure order.  But line workers at those plants have expressed fears that new safety measures implemented recently are not enough. WMRA’s Calvin Pynn reports.

Harrisonburg Family Practice

Dr. Greg Jesteadt is a physician at Harrisonburg Family Practice and a clinical professor of family medicine for the University of Virginia.  WMRA's Bob Leweke reached out to him for his perspective, as a physician seeing patients, on the COVID-19 crisis.  Dr. Jesteadt emphasized that his views are his own, and not necessarily those of other physicians at the practice, or at UVa.  Bob began by asking him what he’s seeing in his practice now.

The week of March 15, Governor Ralph Northam ordered establishments to serve no more than 10 patrons at a time. Also that week, ABC sales in the Charlottesville and Harrisonburg region were up 57% over the same period last year.  Even without the ability to imbibe in crowded bars, Virginians are still knocking ‘em back. WMRA’s Randi B. Hagi reports.

Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group

The flu pandemic of 1918 lasted from January of that year till about December of 1920, and it infected roughly 500 million people.  But what was life like during that time?  And how did the federal government respond?