Before the coronavirus pandemic, I mostly wrote stories about Newport News and occasionally, the Historic Triangle.
When the coronavirus hit Virginia, I switched gears to focus on the Historic Triangle, writing about daily updates from the governor and the latest case numbers to struggling nonprofits and company layoffs.
I wrote other stories about the coronavirus too like alcoholics struggling with their addiction and social isolation, and how those lying on their deathbeds in hospice care were limited to one visitor at a time.
There was a bittersweet story about two Bichon Frises who found their forever homes, after their owner got COVID-19 and died in a nursing home. Then I wrote stories about systemic racism, the presidential elections and the William & Mary sports cuts.
Some stories affected me more than others but every story left its mark.
Here are my top five stories:
Larisa Turkatte was determined to get her autistic son, Brandon, the education he deserved. She wanted the York County School Division to make up the missing hours Brandon’s teacher failed to provide him during the summer –– the hours the division had promised in Brandon’s education plan. But YCSD refused so the single mother, spent months fighting the school’s administration, while juggling Brandon’s behavioral and eating therapy appointments. She filed three complaints with the Virginia Department of Education, who found YCSD non-compliant in Brandon’s education. I chose this story because I was in awe of Larisa’s determination, courage and love for her son. READ MORE.
Katie Thyne was a 24-year-old Newport News police officer who died during a traffic stop. She was the first police officer to die in the line of duty since 1994. I chose this story because her death shocked me. Katie was a few years younger than me when she left behind a 2-year-old daughter, Raegan and her fiancé and fellow police officer, Brittany Lewis. At the press conference, the police chief described how Katie died: She got caught in the driver’s side door during the traffic stop and when the suspect drove off, Katie was dragged for a block before the car crashed into a tree, pinning her between the tree and the car door. READ MORE.
The former and current staff members at Envoy of Williamsburg were concerned about their residents and the new coronavirus rules. Consulate Health Care, the private company which owned the nursing home allegedly told nurses, doctors and medical staff not to test residents who had COVID-19 symptoms but to instead sent them to the ER. Employees and residents were not allowed to wear masks either, so we investigated. I chose this story because there was a lack of transparency and accountability from the nursing home, Consulate Health Care, the Virginia Department of Health and Gov. Ralph Northam’s office. READ MORE.
Katy Dean, a nurse from Williamsburg, worked with COVID-19 patients in one of the nation’s largest hotspots: New York City. The nurse anesthetist and mother of four joined hundreds of other nurses working long hours with limited staff. I chose this story because she reminded me of my cousin, who was also working with COVID-19 patients in New York. Katy also gave me a new perspective of the virus, noting multiple times in the interview it affected both old, sick people considered high risk and young, healthy people with no pre-existing conditions. “I would hate for what I saw in New York to be something that I see here because it’s very sad,” she said. READ MORE.
Roxanne Gabel’s daughter, Lakin, died in 2017, just seconds after Lakin posted a selfie on Snapchat, lost control of the car and crashed. Lakin was 21 and left behind her son, Harrison, just three months old. Roxanne struggled with Lakin’s death and started advocating for new laws against distracted driving. In July, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a new law which bans most people from using their cellphones while they drive––– a similar bill Roxanne had fought for almost two years ago. I chose this story because I felt bad for Roxanne. She loved her daughter so much and struggled to cope with Lakin’s death. This was one of several follow up stories where I talked to Roxanne about her daughter’s death and it never got any easier. But I am thankful this bill passed and I hope Roxanne finds some closure or at the very least, peace. READ MORE.
YOU MIGHT WANT TO CHECK OUT THESE STORIES:
- Nursing homes data now available on VDH’s website. It only took a few months
- The Confederate battle flag: Different meanings for different people
- Advocates say more needs to be done to end systemic racism and renaming buildings alone won’t do it
- FDA: W&M COVID-19 testing provider has no emergency use authorization
- W&M Athletics Director Samantha Huge resigns amid controversy over cutting 7 sports programs
- #IAmVanessaGuillen: Army veteran wants mural of Vanessa Guillen in Hampton Roads or the Peninsula
- Helping the shoeless: Local nonprofit expands outreach during the coronavirus
- Stone engravings and more: How one man turned his passion for rocks into a side gig