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.

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 […]

Virginia’s COVID-19 decline is officially over

By: - July 21, 2021

After six months of sharp decline, COVID-19 cases in Virginia are again on the rise, spurred by the spread of more infectious variants and a plateau in new vaccinations. With just over 53 percent of the population fully vaccinated (and more than 64 percent of adults), the case burden is still far below states like […]

New coalition calls for statewide board to control prescription drug costs

By: - July 20, 2021

A new coalition is calling on Virginia legislators to create an oversight board aimed at lowering the cost of pharmaceuticals across the commonwealth. “We have formed because the problem is clear and it is grave,” said Addison Hunter, a spokesperson for Freedom Virginia, one of several advocacy groups — including Doctors for America and Virginia […]

Amid a crisis at state mental hospitals, calls for private providers to step up

By: - July 20, 2021

As Virginia’s state-run mental hospitals struggle to navigate a long-brewing crisis in staffing and admissions, lawmakers and advocates are asking private hospitals to relieve more of the burden. For years, officials have warned that Virginia’s beleaguered psychiatric facilities were on the verge of collapse. But the system reached a tipping point earlier this month when […]

Va. birth rates have declined, but regional differences tell a more complicated story

By: - July 15, 2021

In mid-April, Virginia hospitals noted what was then a surprising trend: birth-related visits had declined by about 3.3 percent over the past year, despite early speculation that pandemic stay-at-home orders could lead to a baby boom. At the time, analysts with the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association weren’t sure if the trend would bear out […]

What’s the best way to protect young Virginians from COVID-19? Experts say it’s getting more adults immunized.

By: - July 14, 2021

Late last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released sweeping new guidance for public schools, prioritizing in-person learning and making masks optional for fully vaccinated students (a recommendation that Virginia will soon adopt, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported).  The news came less than 24 hours after the state’s Department of Health announced that […]

More than half of Virginia’s state-run mental hospitals are closing to new admissions

By: - July 9, 2021

More than half of Virginia’s state-run mental hospitals are immediately closing to new admissions, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services announced Friday. The abrupt order from DBHDS Commissioner Alison Land comes amid a workforce crisis that’s resulted in a “dangerous environment where staff and patients are at increasing risk for physical harm,” she […]

Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated Virginians account for virtually all new COVID-19 cases since December, data shows

By: - July 8, 2021

Since late December, virtually all of Virginia’s new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been among residents who are unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health. The statistics parallel trends in neighboring states, including Maryland, which announced that unvaccinated residents made up all of its coronavirus deaths in […]