Author

Kate Masters

Kate Masters

An award-winning reporter, 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. While at the News-Post, she won first place in feature writing and breaking news from the Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association, and Best in Show for her coverage of the local opioid epidemic. Before joining the Mercury in 2020, she covered state and county politics for the Bethesda Beat in Montgomery County, Md.

How common are breakthrough infections in Virginia? It depends how you crunch the numbers.

By: - August 24, 2021

For the last month, the rise of the highly infectious Delta variant has prompted growing anxiety over so-called “breakthrough” infections — commonly understood as cases of COVID-19 among individuals who are fully vaccinated. In Virginia, though, it’s not easy to understand how often those cases are occurring. According to the state’s recently updated COVID-19 dashboard, […]

Virginia is part of a probe into infections caused by contaminated ultrasound gels

By: - August 23, 2021

Virginia is one of at least six states investigating bacterial infections linked to contaminated ultrasound gels, Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver announced in a clinician’s update earlier this month. So far, the Virginia Department of Health has identified a cluster of eight Burkholderia stabilis infections in the northwest region of the state, according to spokeswoman […]

Booster shots are coming. Here’s what that means for Virginia.

By: - August 19, 2021

The White House and federal health officials announced yesterday that COVID-19 boosters will likely become available to U.S. adults by Sept. 20, following a review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  In Virginia, officials have already begun planning the logistics of the rollout, state vaccine coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said at a news briefing […]

Most Virginia hospitals and nursing homes aren’t mandating COVID-19 vaccines for their employees

By: - August 18, 2021

For the third time in just over a year, Ballad Health is suspending many of its elective surgeries, citing a new surge of coronavirus cases that have left its hospitals overwhelmed. As serious infections have risen across the region, driven by low immunization rates and the aggressive Delta variant, the system’s administrators have begged more […]

Northam announces new vaccine and testing requirements for state employees

By: - August 5, 2021

Roughly 122,000 state employees will be required to show proof of vaccination or undergo weekly testing, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday — the latest in a line of mandates across the country aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus delta variant. Northam’s spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, said the policy will apply to employees and contractors […]

City of Richmond introduces first employee vaccine mandate in Virginia

By: - August 4, 2021

The City of Richmond will mandate COVID-19 vaccines for its employees, Mayor Levar Stoney announced Wednesday, becoming the first locality in Virginia to implement the requirement. The mandate applies to about 3,600 public employees, including police, fire, public works, social services and parks and recreation workers. It won’t, however, extend to roughly 500 constitutional officers […]

A new grant aims to decrease social isolation among Virginia nursing home residents

By: - August 3, 2021

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation and loneliness were a daily reality for many nursing home residents. “It’s hard for us to imagine what it’s like to wake up every morning and think, ‘I don’t belong here,’” said Kristine Theurer, a longtime expert in senior care. As a music therapist (and later a recreation […]

Federal funding could provide immediate relief to Virginia’s state-run mental hospitals

By: - July 29, 2021

With Virginia’s state-run mental hospitals in the midst of a self-described crisis, Gov. Ralph Northam is proposing a $485 million investment in behavioral health services. The proposed allotment was announced Wednesday ahead of next week’s special General Assembly session, where lawmakers will decide how to distribute $4.3 billion in federal relief funding. Mental health funding […]

Virginia will reopen one of five state-run mental hospitals to new admissions

By: - July 28, 2021

Catawba Hospital, a state-run psychiatric facility near Roanoke, will begin accepting a limited number of new patients on Thursday, according to a release from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.  The announcement comes nearly 20 days after Commissioner Alison Land halted admissions to five of the state’s nine mental hospitals, including Catawba […]

Some Virginia nursing homes join the call for employee vaccine mandates

By: - July 27, 2021

Amid growing concerns over the more-infectious Delta variant, some of Virginia’s long-term care facilities are joining the push for employee vaccine mandates. In a statement on Tuesday, LeadingAge Virginia, an association representing nonprofit aging services across the commonwealth, called on facilities to require immunization for all staff working in the long-term care industry. While the […]

Northam’s $250 million HVAC investment leaves education advocates underwhelmed

By: - July 27, 2021

Gov. Ralph Northam wants to allocate $250 million in federal relief funding for HVAC improvements in K-12 schools but education advocates and actual school system administrators want more equity in how the money is doled out and more flexibility in using it.  The investment in ventilation systems, a recurrent focus amid the COVID-19 pandemic, didn’t […]

Virginia’s new school COVID-19 guidance keeps most safety decisions in the hands of local districts

By: - July 21, 2021

Masks, social distancing and screening should continue to play an outsized role in the upcoming school year, according to new safety guidelines released Wednesday by the Virginia Departments of Education and Health.  This year, though, state lawmakers have given local divisions much less leeway to go fully remote, citing growing mental health concerns among children […]