Tree-sitters ordered to clear way for Mountain Valley Pipeline construction, coronavirus outbreak grows among Richmond City government workers, Henrico couple dies from COVID-19 less than three weeks apart

Virginia Mercury

Our daily roundup of headlines from Virginia and elsewhere.

• After more than two years, a Montgomery County judge ordered three unidentified tree-sitters blocking construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline to leave by Monday, directing “sheriff’s deputies to read a notice of his order aloud to people at the scene and to attach copies of it to nearby trees.”—Roanoke Times

• A coronavirus outbreak in Richmond City government continues to grow: 25 employees have now tested positive and 57 are in quarantine, including 37 police department employees. “These numbers are a wake-up call for all of us. This virus is real,” said Mayor Levar Stoney.—Richmond Times-Dispatch

• Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, acknowledged he lost his bid to unseat Rep. Abigail Spanberger, but stopped short of conceding, writing he has not “stopped fighting or investigating the results.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch

• The Republican member of the Virginia Board of Elections was surprised by the state GOP’s rhetoric questioning the integrity of election results. “Nobody’s called me to share that with me,” he said. “But I think in general, the elections have been fair in Virginia.”—VPM

• Jill Biden plans to continue teaching English and writing at Northern Virginia Community College, making her “the first president’s wife to continue her professional career as first lady.”—Politico

• The Augusta County prosecutor appointed to review whether a $1.8 million contract to remove Confederate monuments in Richmond was inappropriately directed to one of the mayor’s political supporters has formally asked the attorney general’s office to authorize an investigation by the state police.—Associated Press

• “A North Carolina man was sentenced to two years in prison Thursday after he threatened to burn down a predominantly Black church in Virginia Beach this summer.”—Virginian-Pilot

• Richmond sealed two gates on its flood wall as the James River began rising to a projected 18.5 feet, its highest level in 17 years.—VPM, Richmond Times-Dispatch

• A family in Henrico asked people to take COVID-19 seriously over the holidays after their parents died less than three weeks apart from the virus following a trip to attend a funeral. “Hindsight is 20/20, but going there and traveling I think was a mistake.”—WTVR

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