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Prince William County Public Schools students [Photo: Prince William County Public Schools Facebook page]
Despite a new executive order from Gov. Glenn Youngkin making masks optional for parents and students, Prince William County schools will continue to require children and teachers to wear masks. 

A schools spokeswoman said the division is reviewing the Governor’s order. 

The school division states: 

We are aware that over the weekend, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced a series of executive orders, including future modifications to guidance on masks in schools. The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) will also be issuing revised guidance. PWCS is evaluating both the order and anticipated VDOE guidance, along with local, state, and national legal requirements.

As always, any changes to our mitigation strategies will be made thoughtfully and with the health and safety of students and staff as our priority. Any decision to remove a mitigation layer must take into consideration our ability to continue in-person instruction.

Meanwhile, in Manassas, the city’s public schools will ignore the Governor’s new order. According to a spokeswoman, the division will adhere to the law requiring government school divisions to adhere to CDC recommendations, urging school divisions to require face coverings. 

The division writes: 

As students return to school this week, please note that Manassas City Public Schools will continue universal masking for all students, staff, and visitors in alignment with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance. To continue in-person instruction, as outlined in Senate Bill 1303, adhering to our mitigation strategies, especially universal masking, keeps our schools open and safe places for students to learn.

MCPS is aware of the executive order issued by the Governor over the weekend. The School Board of the City of Manassas will continue to share updated information on division COVID-19 protocols with the MCPS community as needed.

We’ve yet to hear from Stafford County Public Schools.

Youngkin’s order comes during a surge of coronavirus cases in the region. However, according to multiple media outlets, the surge appears to be subsiding.

Youngkin campaigned on giving parents the choice to opt out of mask requirements in schools.

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Police found a 37-year-old Mary Anne Smoot suffering a gunshot wound in an apartment near a Costco warehouse near Manassas. 

After performing CPR, police pronounced the Smoot dead.

At 10:22 a.m., officers responded to the Raven Crest Apartments located in the 8100 block of Cobden Court to investigate a shooting. Officers arrived performed CPR on the woman until rescue personnel arrived.

No other occupants in the apartment were injured. 

The suspect, identified as Maquan Omari McCray, fled on foot before officers arrived. A police K-9 and helicopter assistance from Fairfax County police searched the area for the suspect but came up empty. 

An investigation revealed that the victim and a family member went to the above location to meet McCray. The family member accompanying the victim had a previous relationship with McCray, police said.

During the encounter, the victim and McCray got into a verbal altercation that escalated when the accused shot the victim multiple times, police said. 

Maquan Omari McCray, 18, lives in the 9800 block of Solitary Place in Bristow. He’s black, 5 feet 7 inches tall, 160 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes

He’s wanted for murder and use of a firearm in commission of a felony.

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A driver plowed into a ditch at intersection of Rotue 234 and Talon Drive near Dumfries during winter storm on Sunday, January 16, 2022. No one was injured. [Photo: Uriah Kiser/PLN]
A winter storm dumped nearly three inches of snow on the region before changing to ice and rain.

According to the National Weather Service, 2.8 inches of snow fell across Stafford County and eastern Prince William County. More snow fell in western Prince William County, where snow totals registered about three and a half inches.

Snow began falling just after noon and quickly covered roadways. Shortly after, snow covered Interstate 95 in Dumfries, where plow trains removed the snow and spread salt and sand.

Police and emergency crews went to help several drivers on Route 234 who became stranded and drove into ditches. In Stafford County, sheriff’s deputies were called to at last six crashes with injuries.

A portion of Kellogg Mill Road over the Abel Lake reservoir was closed due to ice. Many drivers were stranded in the area after they couldn’t drive up a steep hill.

Last night, Virginia State Police reported troopers were called to 68 Disabled Vehicles and 40 crashes in the Culpeper Division, including Stafford County and Fredericksburg.

In the Fairfax Division, Prince William County, troopers were called to 104 disabled vehicles and 65 crashes.

The storm moved out late Sunday night, leaving behind sunny skies, cold temperatures, and high winds today. The weather service placed the region under a high wind advisory until 10 p.m. for gusts that could reach 37 mph.

The high temperature will be 47 degrees, and tonight’s low 23. Tuesday will remain sunny and cold, while showers are forecast for Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

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Community Notes

Glenn Youngkin is sworn in as Virginia’s 74th Governor on January 15, 2022. [Photo: Twitter/@GovernorVA]
Face mask opt out: Governor Glenn Youngkin today signed nine Executive Orders and two Executive Directives at the Virginia State Capitol, acting on several of his Day One promises to Virginians. [Press release]

Plastic bag confusion: Residents in Stafford and Spotsylvania have become a lot more familiar with the commissioners of the revenue in their counties since Jan. 1. [Fredericksburg.com]

Work zones: Several highway work zones are planned this week. Know where they are. [Virignia Department of Transportation]

New hires: The Fredericksburg Nationals have hired three more staffers as they prepare for the 2022 season. [Press release]

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A robber used a hammer to strike a 17-year-old girl, an employee of a dollar store near Manassas.

On Tuesday, January 13, at 12:38 p.m., police went to the Dollar and Gift store at 7630 Streamwalk Lane, near Interstate 66 and Sudley Road, to investigate a robbery. They learned a man entered the store and approached the counter where the two employees, a 17-year-old girl, and a 25-year-old woman, stood.

The man brandished a hammer and demanded money from the registers. The man then forced the two employees to walk to the office at the rear of the store, where the owner, a 44-year-old man, sat.

At that point, the two employees ran for the back door, where the suspect followed before striking the 17-year-old girl with the hammer, police said.

The employees eventually fled the store, and the man suspect went back inside, went to the office, and tried to strike the owner with the hammer. The owner avoided being hit and attempted to run towards the back door, police said.

Once outside, the suspect caught up with him and pushed him to the ground, and then went back inside and grabbed a money bag before fleeing, police said.

The owner initially chased the suspect, who got away. The owner and the employees went back into the store, where they encountered officers.

A police K-9 and helicopter assistance from Fairfax County police searched the area for the suspect who was not located. An ambulance took the 17-year-old to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The owner reported minor injuries. An undisclosed amount of money was reported missing.

Police are searching for a Hispanic man, between 22-25 years old, between 5 feet 9 inches ad 5 feet 9 inches tall, between 190 and 210 pounds.

The man wore a green hat, an orange hooded sweatshirt, black gloves, blue jeans, black boots, and a hammer.

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Brian Jeter, an overhead line trainee with Dominion Energy [Uriah Kiser/PLN]
Power crews in the Fredericksburg area are getting ready for another winter blast that could bring snow, ice, and rain to our area on Sunday and Monday.

Today, line crews spent the morning stocking trucks preparing for the storm at a Dominion Energy office on Warrenton Road in south Stafford.

One driver couldn’t buy as much fuel as he bargained for, while others packed this gas station on Route 3 in Spotsylvania County to fill up ahead of the incoming winter storm.

“A lot of what goes into it is making sure we are carrying a little bit more material than we would typically use on a day-to-day basis,” said Brian Jeter, an overhead line trainee who has spent the past five years working for Dominion Energy. “With snow coming, we know snow is a little heavy. A lot of trees are going to be falling. So we need more material to connect a wire back together than we would on, say, just a typical wire-down job.”

The next round of winter weather comes on the heels of a severe winter storm on January 3 that caused trees to fall, knocking out power for hundreds of thousands, and left drivers stranded on a 53-mile stretch of Interstate 95 between Dumfries and Kings Dominion.

“I tell you, that the snow was very wet, very heavy, and it stuck to everything, including trees, and it weighs them down to where they can’t tolerate that weight. And they broke pretty significant damage, almost like a Hurricane,” said Dominion Energy lineman Jason George.

If the power goes out again, Dominion crews ask the public to be patient.

“Be patient, hunker down with your family and try to avoid any type of travel unless it’s necessary. We need to have the roads as clear as possible so we can restore service as quick as we can, but as safe as we can and we have crews that will be working around the clock,” said George.

“Our biggest thing is we’re human, too. A lot of us are in here working 15, 16 hours a day…even when our own power is out,” adds Jeter.

According to the National Weather Service, five to 10 inches of snow, up to 15, could fall across the region, now under a winter storm watch. Snow is expected on Sunday into Monday, January 16 and 17.

The snow could fall fast on Sunday night, at one to three inches an hour.

On his last day in office, Gov. Ralph Northam issued a state of emergency ahead of the storm. The order activates the National Guard.

This month, Northam took heat after not activating the guard to help stranded motorists on I-95.

Read More

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Fredericksburg street crews removed a large Jefferson Davis Highway street sign that hung Mary Washington Boulevard at 11 p.m. Thursday, January 13. The street has been renamed Emancipation Highway. [Photo: Uriah Kiser/PLN]
After nearly 100 years as Jefferson Davis Highway, the name is no more.

Fredericksburg street crews removed the last remaining signs in the city showing the name of the Civil War-era president of the confederacy. The city renamed its portion of the 200-mile Virginia highway that links Washington, D.C. with North Carolina, Emancipation Highway.

Street crews began working to replace the old signs with new signs showing the street’s new name, at several key intersections, at 11 p.m. Thursday. Several street signs at multiple smaller intersections had already been replaced.

In July 2020, the Fredericksburg City Council petitioned the state’s Commonwealth Transportation Board to change the name of its portion of the highway. Later, former Stafford County Delegate Joshua Cole carried legislation requiring all jurisdictions to change the name of their respective portion of the road.

Since the 1970s, Fairfax County residents have called Route 1 “Richmond Highway.” Name changes are in the works in Prince William and Stafford counties, where the road will also soon be known as Richmond Highway.

For Fredericksburg residents and businesses, street signs aren’t the only things changing. The city will update everything from the U.S. Post Office to the 911 database with new addresses for residents and businesses in the 22401 zip code, said a city spokeswoman.

City leaders chose the new Emancipation Highway name because it “promotes our shared values of unity, equality, and a commitment to a better future for all Americans,” according to a press release.

A city spokeswoman says that changing all the signs should be complete by the end of the month. The highway was named after Jefferson Davis in the 1920s, following a post-war reconciliation period that carried over into the 20th century.

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Community Notes

The first of two light industrial buildings at Merritt Business Park at Quantico Corporate Center are complete. [Sumitted photo]
New building: Merritt Properties announced today that the company has completed the first of two Class A light industrial buildings at Merritt Business Park at Quantico Corporate Center in Stafford County. [Press release]

Teachers begin bargaining: Just as students return from winter break, the push for collective bargaining rights for Prince William County Public Schools employees is beginning. [Insidenova.com]

Coronavirus field hospital established: Mary Washington Healthcare has shifted into its “crisis standard of care,”…the health care system also is activating a backup plan officials never wanted to have to implement. [Fredericksburg.com]

Prince William Dems step aside: The field of potential Democratic challengers to Rep. Abigail Spanberger in the new 7th Congressional District has narrowed as a number of high-profile elected officials have dropped out of the race for the nomination in a Democratic-leaning district that is expected to be highly competitive for Republicans. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

Youngkin appoints Nokesville man: Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin has appointed longtime environmental consultant and entrepreneur Michael Rolband, of Nokesville, to lead the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. [Prince William Times]

Apology highway: Virginia transportation officials apologized Tuesday for last week’s backup on Interstate 95, which left some drivers stranded for more than 24 hours after a winter storm led to slick road conditions. [WTOP.com]

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Guzman [Photo: Prince William police]

At 12:03 a.m., officers went to Minnieville Road and Dale Boulevard to investigate a two-vehicle crash involving a stolen medical transport ambulance.

The investigation revealed that the accused stole the ambulance from the Kaiser Permanente Woodbridge Medical Center located on Potomac Mills Road, across the Potomac Mills mall, and traveled westbound on Minnieville Road. He collided with a BMW 325i.

The accused continued to flee in the damaged ambulance before striking a road sign and coming to
rest in the roadway. Minor injuries were reported by the 26-year-old male driver of the BMW.

The accused was transported to an area hospital to treat non-life-threatening injuries before being released to police custody. While investigating, officers determined the suspect was intoxicated and driving on a revoked license.

There were no occupants inside the ambulance.

Robert Alexis Guzman, 36, of 9416 Forest Haven Drive in Alexandria, is charged with grand theft of a vehicle, DWI, and driving on a revoked license. Police held him without bond. He’s scheduled to appear in court on February 24.

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