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Christmas In Hillsville
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Hillsville held its annual holiday celebration on Dec. 3, with the theme “A Musical Christmas.” The evening started with stocking stuffing by the Town of Hillsville and Santa’s arrival at the historic Hale-Wilkinson-Carter Home on Main Street, followed by a tree lightning ceremony and the parade. David Young was this year’s grand marshal. The festival also featured Christmas carols, a s’mores station provided by Carroll County, free hot chocolate and contests for floats and window decorating. The event was sponsored by The Town of Hillsville, Carroll County and The Friends of Hillsville.


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Police seize drugs, capture fugitive
  • Updated

Three men are in custody for unrelated offenses in Carroll County — a fugitive who was captured after a pursuit and two suspects charged with drug possession.

Carroll Sheriff Kevin Kemp reported that on Nov. 28, members of his department assisted the Surry County (N.C.) Sheriff’s Office with a vehicle pursuit that had entered Carroll County.

After receiving the call for assistance, a Carroll County deputy made contact with the suspect — Jesse James Outlaw, 29, of Dobson, N.C. — and a foot pursuit ensued on Flower Gap Road near Mountain View Road. The report said that a short time later, deputies took Outlaw into custody and learned that he had outstanding felony warrants out of Carroll and Surry counties.

“Upon searching his person, they located suspected methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and ammunition,” the report said.

Outlaw was arrested, taken before a magistrate and charged with one count of possession of a Schedule I/II controlled substance, one count of possession of ammunition by a convicted felon and one count of obstruction of justice, and served a warrant of extradition. He was later transported to the New River Valley Regional Jail and held without bond.

Traffic Stop Turns up Drugs

On Nov. 8, members of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office Community Action Team conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle in the Lambsburg area of the county.

Upon further investigation, officers determined that one of the passengers was in possession of suspected narcotics, the report said. During the course of the investigation, deputies seized suspected heroin and methamphetamine.

Colby Craig Cassell, 36, of Low Gap, N.C., was arrested, taken before a magistrate and charged with two counts of possession of a Schedule I/II controlled substance. He was later transported to the regional jail and held without bond.

Suspect Tosses Narcotics

Also on Nov. 8, members of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office Community Action Team conducted a traffic stop in the Cana area. Police found that the driver didn’t have a valid license.

During the investigation, the driver attempted to throw suspected narcotics that he retrieved from his person, the report said. “The deputy then detained him and seized the narcotics. Upon examining the evidence, the deputy identified the substances as methamphetamine and Xanax.”

Brian Adam Donathan, 35, of Hillsville, was arrested, taken before a magistrate and charged with one count of possession of a Schedule I/II substance and one count of possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance. He was later transported to the regional jail.


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Schools scratch 'cat' rumors

INDEPENDENCE — Grayson Schools Superintendent Kelly Wilmore had to declaw a vicious rumor that was scratching at local parents last month.

At the Nov. 14 meeting, he informed Grayson County School Board members that a report of students allegedly dressing up as cats, meowing, hissing and requesting to use litter boxes instead of restrooms was unfounded.

“This ridiculous notion is nothing but a rumor,” Wilmore said. “I have received several calls from parents and others about students using cat boxes and acting as cats, and I can say that there are no cat boxes in any Grayson County school.”

He added that he knew that schools in Galax, Carroll County, Wythe County and Alleghany County, N.C., also didn’t have any cat boxes.

Other people who attended the meeting said they had heard the same rumor.

Wilmore went on to promise the board that there would never be a cat box in any Grayson County school.

Origin of a Rumor

Similar rumors have spread in communities across the U.S. in recent months, often originating with conservative politicians, commentators and social influencers on platforms like TikTok who are opposed to schools offering accomodations for transgender students.

For example, a clip from the “Joe Rogan Show” has circulated widely online. The host talks about hearing a second-hand story about students at an unidentified school identifying as cats and using litter boxes.

The story is often cited as to illustrate a hypothetical “what’s next?” scenario that schools could face if they respect students’ wishes to identify as a certain gender.

According to a report by NBC News, which reviewed public statements, at least 20 Republican candidates and elected officials have made false claims this year that “K-12 schools are placing litter boxes on campus or making other accommodations for students who identify as cats.”

In public statements or in interviews with NBC News, every school district named by those 20 politicians said the claims are untrue. “There is no evidence that any school has deployed litter boxes for students to use because they identify as cats,” the report said.


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App will estimate river float times

Each year, EMS departments report upwards of 30 water rescues in the Twin Counties.

Often, those rescues result from people underestimating the amount of time it takes to get from one point to the next along the New River.

Grayson County will use a federal grant to develop an app that calculates float times along the New River, and to amplify the host of other outdoor recreation opportunities within its borders.

Virginia Tourism Corporation recently awarded the county $30,000 from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to spur economic activity related to travel and tourism, said Tracy Cornett, Grayson’s tourism economic development director.

An additional $25,000 was awarded by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation in a collaborative effort with the Independence Volunteer Fire Department to enhance the project by adding solar hotspots at each of the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR)-maintained boat landings throughout the county.

“The tourism department had been deliberating the development of a float time calculator for several years, and ARPA funds provided much-needed funds to implement it,” Cornett said.

She explained that the web-based app will calculate float times from point A to point B on the river, including various factors such as water levels, flow rates, weather conditions, vessel type, etc. “Signage will be displayed at the six boat landings within the county managed by DWR, which will include some approximate float times in case live sites are down. The signage will warn of any dangers ahead and display some beautiful nearby scenery.”

There will be a QR code on each sign, which users can scan with their smartphone’s camera to access the app.

“Because the cellular service is spotty in Grayson County, especially along the river, the Independence Volunteer Fire Department applied for a Virginia Outdoors Foundation grant to supply cellular hotspots at each sign, making the QR codes more easily accesible,” Cornett said.

“We are thrilled to support this innovative project, which will make recreation on the New River safer and more engaging for everyone,” said Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) Executive Director Brett Glymph.

“We believe this innovative app with wifi access at the boat landings will enhance the safety and convenience for visitors and residents alike when recreating on the New River,” Independence Fire Chief Gary Hash said.

“These two grant opportunities tied together beautifully,” Cornett said. “The objective of the ARPA project is to make our beautiful New River safe and convenient for users. The VOF grant opportunity made the river app usable for everyone.”

Grayson County Tourism thanked the Virginia Tourism Corporation and VOF “for their assistance and generosity in helping make this funding opportunity a reality,” the Independence Volunteer Fire Department “for their efforts to ensure the safety of our vistors and citizens,” and the DWR for their collaboration on the project.


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Flu, virus cases surge in Va.

The Virginia healthcare community is encouraging those who haven’t done so to get vaccinated against the flu, get vaccinated or boosted against COVID-19, and to take personal health and safety precautions as the state enters what could be a particularly intense flu and respiratory illness season.

A group of healthcare organizations issued the following joint statement:

“This year’s flu season is already showing early, concerning signs that it may be worse than in recent years. There are also increasing numbers of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) cases, which may cause serious illness and hospitalization in children and older adults. If these trends continue, this could strain healthcare systems in some communities.

“Virginia doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers are already being inundated with a surge of sick patients seeking care, filling hospital beds, and in many cases requiring longer hospital stays.

“Data from Virginia hospitals and public health surveillance information from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) suggest that the commonwealth faces the prospect of a particularly challenging flu and respiratory disease season throughout this fall and winter. Emergency department and urgent care clinic visits involving patient diagnoses of RSV have quadrupled since early September and remain significantly elevated.

“Visits for flu-like illness are also rising — for the week ending Nov. 5, such visits were at least four times higher than in the same week for each of the past four years. In Virginia, we have seen a 41% increase in flu-like illness and an overall 18% increase in respiratory illness from the week prior. Virginia Immunization Information System data from July 1-Nov. 9, 2022, indicated that flu vaccination uptake in children younger than 12 is lower this year as compared to the same time periods during the previous three years.

“These conditions are occurring even as COVID-19 remains a significant concern — the federal public health emergency regarding coronavirus was recently extended and Virginia hospitals continue to treat an average of 478 hospital inpatients each day. The continued presence of COVID-19 combined with the rapid spread of flu and other respiratory illness poses a heightened risk of developing medical complications from COVID-19 or the flu among older Virginians, individuals with weakened immune systems or other medical conditions, and younger children.”

To protect yourself and your family against flu, RSV, and other respiratory illnesses, the healthcare community recommends taking the following steps:

• Make an appointment to get a flu shot as soon as possible. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise that everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every season with rare exceptions. Flu shots are available at doctor’s offices, commercial pharmacies, local health districts, and community health clinics, among other locations. Find out where you can get a flu shot in your community here.

• Get vaccinated against COVID-19 if you have not done so already. Get boosted if you have been vaccinated but it has been at least two months since your last vaccine dose . Bivalent booster doses are available for vaccinated individuals 5 and older. VDH advises parents to discuss this option with their child’s healthcare provider. Find out where you can get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster in your community by visiting vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 877-VAX-IN-VA or 877-829-4682.

• Parents of sick children are encouraged to keep them home from school and other activities to help limit the spread of infection. Parents with sick children are also advised to initially contact a pediatrician or family physician for medical guidance unless your child is in medical distress, in which case seeking hospital care may be warranted. Taking this approach helps ensure that hospital beds and emergency departments are open and available to patients with critical medical needs.

• Adults who become ill are also encouraged to stay home to limit the risk of spreading illness and to contact their healthcare provider for guidance on the appropriate course of treatment depending on the severity of symptoms and other risk factors.

• Individuals with symptoms, or those who test positive, are encouraged to contact their healthcare providers to determine the treatment option that is right for them. This is especially true for high-risk individuals. Because treatment is often most effective when taken within five days of the onset of symptoms, people are advised not to delay seeking medical advice and starting prescribed treatment. It is also important to remember that prescriptions such as antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections are typically not appropriate or indicated for treating viral infections like flu and RSV.

• As a routine safety behavior, Virginians are encouraged to wash their hands often with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, to avoid touching their faces with unwashed hands, to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, to limit the time children spend in large group settings with other contagious individuals when possible, and to get tested if they believe they have been exposed to illness.

“With respiratory illness and related hospitalizations on the rise in Virginia, getting vaccinated, taking basic health and safety steps, and seeking appropriate medical care and guidance if you become sick, are simple ways to help you and your family stay safe and healthy this holiday season,” the statement concludes.

In addition to the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, the following organizations and institutions endorse this statement: Access Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics — Virginia Chapter, Ballad Health, Bon Secours Richmond and Hampton Roads, Carilion Clinic, Centra Health System, Chesapeake Regional Healthcare, Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, HCA Virginia, LewisGale Hospital — Alleghany, LewisGale Medical Center, LewisGale Hospital — Montgomery, LewisGale Hospital — Pulaski, Mary Washington Healthcare, the Medical Society of Virginia, the Richmond Academy of Medicine, the Richmond Ambulance Authority, Riverside Health System, Sentara Healthcare, UVA Health, Valley Health System, the Virginia Academy of Physician Assistants, the Virginia Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, the Virginia Association of Community-Based Providers, the Virginia Association of Nurse Anesthetists, the Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians, the Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners, VCU Health, the Virginia Health Care Association-Virginia Center for Assisted Living, the Virginia Health Care Foundation, VHC Health, the Virginia Network of Private Providers, the Virginia Nurses Association, the Virginia Orthopaedic Society, the Virginia Pharmacists Association, the Virginia Podiatric Medical Association, the Virginia Public Health Association, Virginia Rural Health Association, and the Virginia Section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.


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