Kate Masters

Kate Masters

Kate grew up in Northern Virginia before moving to the Midwest, earning her degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. She spent a year covering gun violence and public health for The Trace in Boston before joining The Frederick News-Post in Frederick County, Md. Before joining the Mercury in 2020, she covered state and county politics for the Bethesda Beat in Montgomery County, Md. She was named Virginia's outstanding young journalist for 2021 by the Virginia Press Association.

Northam is stressing messaging — not mandates — to curb rising COVID-19 infections

By: - November 10, 2020

Faced with the approaching holiday season and surging Virginia COVID-19 case numbers — the highest at any point during the pandemic so far — Gov. Ralph Northam reminded Virginians Tuesday about basic public health steps: hand-washing, masks and taking precautions with gatherings.  “I’m not saying don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but if you’re planning to gather with […]

House lawmakers reject governor’s proposal on spending remaining CARES Act funding

By: - November 9, 2020

How Virginia spends its remaining federal CARES Act funding was a point of contention between Gov. Ralph Northam and General Assembly lawmakers throughout an extensive special session focused on criminal justice reform and amending the state’s two-year budget. It’s one that wasn’t resolved by Monday afternoon, when the Democrat-controlled House of Delegates rejected a series […]

COVID-19 outbreaks are increasing within Virginia’s hospitals, health officials warn

By: - November 9, 2020

One of Virginia’s top health officials is warning medical providers about a growing number of COVID-19 outbreaks in state hospitals. Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver released a new clinician letter on Friday, writing that reported COVID-19 infections in hospitals have “increased substantially” since August. “The largest monthly number of hospital COVID-19 outbreaks since the pandemic […]

COVID-19 in Southwest Virginia is surging. Some officials are skeptical that new restrictions might help.

By: - November 9, 2020

Dr. Karen Shelton, director of the Mount Rogers Health District in the far corner of Southwest Virginia, was prepared for the holiday season to launch a potential surge of new COVID-19 cases from mid-December to late January. But she didn’t expect the region’s current case burden, which began to rise precipitously in mid-October. After uniformly […]

The state says it’s fixing special education oversight in Virginia. Advocates wonder if it will be enough.

By: - November 2, 2020

The Virginia Department of Education is quietly implementing changes in response to a federal report that found serious deficiencies in how the agency monitors and enforces compliance with special education law.  In a memo circulated to local school districts last month, state Superintendent James Lane wrote that the agency was revising its policies and procedures […]

Southwest Virginia is driving new COVID-19 cases but there are no plans for regional restrictions — for now

By: - October 28, 2020

Virginia’s COVID-19 infections are increasing again, but the latest spike is targeting the Southwest — a region that largely avoided significant case growth for much of the pandemic. Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday that he currently has no plans to place the area under more stringent safety restrictions or step up enforcement at public-facing businesses […]

‘Hung out to dry’: School boards, not the state, are deciding how to reopen, sparking fierce local debates

By: - October 28, 2020

A little over a week after Gov. Ralph Northam announced plans for a phased reopening of Virginia’s K-12 schools, Virginia Beach Superintendent Aaron Spence wrote a frustrated email to a top official at the state’s Department of Education. “This variance option — and the ongoing statement that all parents have to do is lobby their […]

Virginia budget negotiators preserve adult Medicaid dental benefit

By: - October 16, 2020

Virginia’s pared-down state spending plan retained one major priority for health advocates — a dental benefit for adult Medicaid patients. General Assembly budget negotiators restored roughly $17.5 million in state funding to implement the coverage by July 1 next year. The two-year spending agreement, announced Wednesday afternoon, still has to go for a final vote […]

Report shows 4,500 ‘excess deaths’ in Virginia during pandemic

By: - October 14, 2020

New research from Virginia Commonwealth University shows that an additional 4,500 Virginians died between March and August over would be expected based on historical data — a measure known as excess deaths. That’s an increase of 16 percent, according to Dr. Steven Woolf, the lead author on the paper and director emeritus of VCU’s Center […]

Northam also targeted in plot to kidnap Michigan governor. Northam, family weren’t in danger, spokeswoman says.

By: - October 13, 2020

The group of men accused of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as part an alleged terrorist plot also targeted Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, the Detroit News reported Tuesday morning. An FBI special agent testified during a hearing in federal court that the three defendants had discussed “taking out” a sitting governor, specifically mentioning […]

Attendance is falling at COVID-19 testing events. Some officials say fear of missing a paycheck is partly to blame.

By: - October 13, 2020

In late May, 536 people registered for one of the Richmond-Henrico Health District’s COVID-19 community testing events. Throughout the summer, including much of August, attendance rarely dipped below 150. But for the past few weeks, registration numbers have taken a dive. One of the district’s latest events, organized in the parking lot of the Eastern […]

A national report says Virginia is failing in climate change education. State officials dispute that.

By: and - October 13, 2020

A report by two major educational nonprofits released last week on how states’ science standards for public schools handle climate change gave Virginia a failing grade, citing  “abysmal scores across the board.”  “Humanity’s impact is downplayed in the standards and is obfuscated by saying ‘natural’ causes of climate change and ‘chemicals’ being released into the […]