Virginia Becomes the 4th State to Ban Animal-Tested Cosmetics

Jourdyn Grandison | Staff Writer

An increasing number of states in the country are prohibiting animal-tested cosmetics. Virginia is the latest to join the list that already includes California, Nevada, and Illinois. 

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed the Humane Cosmetics Act into law on March 16, formally prohibiting cosmetics manufacturers from “conducting or contracting for cosmetic animal testing [within the state]” and selling animal-tested products. The law will go in effect in January of 2022. 

This isn’t the first time the Virginia legislature has taken steps to ban animal research in favor of humane alternatives. In 2018, Virginia State Senator Jennifer Boysko’s bill was signed into law, prohibiting state research facilities from using animals to test cosmetics and household goods when a valid alternative test method is available.

Several other states, including New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, Hawaii, and New York, may also pass similar laws in the future, according to ABC News. The rise in state-specific anti-animal testing legislation is expected to be part of a more significant state-by-state effort.

“This is a great move for Virginia because this can spark a national change in the cosmetics industry,” said Sierra Williams, a senior economics major. “Brands have already begun shifting to being cruelty-free, so maybe Virginia’s ban may be what pushes for a more environmentally conscious society.” 

The Humane Cosmetics Act’s passing is the second time in recent years that Virginia legislators have been at the forefront of national legislation for animal testing. Virginia Congressman, Jim Moran, sponsored the first federal Humane Cosmetics Act in 2013. Moran’s successor, Congressman Don Beyer, has championed the law with bipartisan support.

Monica Engebretson, Head of Public Affairs of the North American division of Cruelty-Free International believes that Virginia’s law will help pass the law at a federal level.

“We are delighted that Virginia has continued to be a national leader in ending animal testing for cosmetics,” said Engebretson. “This is a significant step not just for Virginia but for the entire US, as history has shown that state activity leads to changes at the federal level.”

Vaccine Rollout Continues for Americans, but Questions Still Linger

William Paul Ellis | Staff Writer

Damien Dovargnes/AP

While one’s younger years are not usually a time full of stress, the current health crisis has changed that, and teenagers and young adults around the world are struggling. The pandemic has raised stress factors such as uncertainty about the future, financial hardships, and safety concerns.

 Sixty-three percent of 18-to-24-year old’s have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, 25 percent of those admit to increased substance use, and 25 percent reported that they have seriously considered suicide, according to the CDC. 

Hampton’s campus has been closed to students since March 2020. Many students complain that they are struggling with online learning and an altered college experience.

Freshman Hampton students who have never lived on campus feel as if they have not had a real college experience. 

“The pandemic has had a huge effect on the class of 2024’s social life. We lack a class bond as most of us have never met in person,” said Oluade Swan, a freshman strategic communications major. “It feels as if stepping on campus has become a far-fetched dream.” 

Senior Hampton students are struggling in accepting the fact that their time in college will not end traditionally. 100 days, a Hampton tradition, and a graduation ceremony are just some of the thing’s seniors are not experiencing as usual. 

“I’ve been waiting for the moment I would become a senior in college,” says Reana Garcia, a senior biology major. “I am sad not only because the end is near but because of all the different events that would take place. I’ve been robbed of that experience and can never get it back.”

College students of color have been more vulnerable to the negative effects of the pandemic as college attendance among Black students dropped 8 percent during the summer of 2020, compared to 2019, according to the first “Stay Informed” report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. 

Additionally, 80 percent of college students reported that COVID-19 had negatively affected their mental health. 

While it is a stressful and anxious time, many students are choosing to be positive and make the best of their current situation. Students look forward to being able to step back on Hampton’s campus in the fall and feel some type of normalcy. 

“This pandemic has made me realize that I should never take life for granted. My college experience has been delayed but it’s taught me that good things may take time. I cannot wait to meet my classmates in the fall,” says Janiya Pearson, freshman class President.

The Effects of COVID-19 on Student’s Mental Health and College Experience

Sydney McCall | Staff Writer

While one’s younger years are not usually a time full of stress, the current health crisis has changed that, and teenagers and young adults around the world are struggling. The pandemic has raised stress factors such as uncertainty about the future, financial hardships, and safety concerns.

 Sixty-three percent of 18-to-24-year old’s have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, 25 percent of those admit to increased substance use, and 25 percent reported that they have seriously considered suicide, according to the CDC. 

Hampton’s campus has been closed to students since March 2020. Many students complain that they are struggling with online learning and an altered college experience.

Freshman Hampton students who have never lived on campus feel as if they have not had a real college experience. 

“The pandemic has had a huge effect on the class of 2024’s social life. We lack a class bond as most of us have never met in person,” said Oluade Swan, a freshman strategic communications major. “It feels as if stepping on campus has become a far-fetched dream.” 

Senior Hampton students are struggling in accepting the fact that their time in college will not end traditionally. 100 days, a Hampton tradition, and a graduation ceremony are just some of the thing’s seniors are not experiencing as usual. 

“I’ve been waiting for the moment I would become a senior in college,” says Reana Garcia, a senior biology major. “I am sad not only because the end is near but because of all the different events that would take place. I’ve been robbed of that experience and can never get it back.”

College students of color have been more vulnerable to the negative effects of the pandemic as college attendance among Black students dropped 8 percent during the summer of 2020, compared to 2019, according to the first “Stay Informed” report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. 

Additionally, 80 percent of college students reported that COVID-19 had negatively affected their mental health. 

While it is a stressful and anxious time, many students are choosing to be positive and make the best of their current situation. Students look forward to being able to step back on Hampton’s campus in the fall and feel some type of normalcy. 

“This pandemic has made me realize that I should never take life for granted. My college experience has been delayed but it’s taught me that good things may take time. I cannot wait to meet my classmates in the fall,” says Janiya Pearson, freshman class President.

Vaccine Rollout Continues for Americans, but Questions Still Linger

William Paul Ellis | Staff Writer

Photo: Damien Dovargnes/AP

After previously promising that all Americans would have access to the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of summer, President Biden announced new directives to the public concerning the national vaccine rollout during a March 12 prime-time address to the nation, the first of his presidency. 

Biden’s directions were given in conjunction with a timeline for all states to follow. By May 1, all adults should be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. This differs from the current eligibility guidelines that vary by state but can best be described as a priority system where only the most vulnerable Americans are allowed to receive the vaccine. 

By July 4, President Biden intends for the country to be “closer to normal,” with the vast majority of Americans having received the vaccine. 

Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global health pandemic one year ago, over 500,000 Americans have died from the virus’ complications. 

However, recent data has shown that the United States is potentially nearing the end of the pandemic. 

As of March 12, approximately 2.3 million doses of the vaccine are being administered each day, and about 35 million people have been fully vaccinated, according to the New York Times

Many young adults have been ineligible for the vaccine depending on their state of residence. However, the pandemic has continued to have a great impact on the daily lives and decisions of both young people and college students. 

Hampton University first began holding fully virtual classes in March of 2020 and has continued to do so for the 2020-21 school year. 

While most students agree on wanting to return to Hampton’s campus in the future, their opinion on the COVID-19 vaccine varies. 

Nicole Brown, a senior marketing major from Lynchburg, VA spends her days at home interning for a prominent technology company but was able to get the vaccine in February. 

According to Brown, her experience receiving the vaccine was positive.

“For my first shot I didn’t feel any serious effects,” Brown said, “But for my second shot, I felt soreness in my arm.” 

Other Hampton University students have not been so optimistic. 

Trevor Hutson, a senior entrepreneurship major from Brooklyn, New York, works part-time at a funeral home in the Hampton area and is frequently in contact with the public. However, he has still chosen not to receive the vaccine. 

“I’ve been offered [the vaccine] but I wanted to see what the effects would be on others before taking it,” Hutson said. 

Similarly, Eddy Baldwin, a senior sociology major from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, is hesitant to receive the vaccine due to possible unknown side effects. 

“The vaccines are being distributed on Emergency terms, so I’m cautious that there hasn’t been a thorough review or testing of the vaccines’ effects long-term,” Baldwin said. 

While Hampton’s graduating seniors can continue to weigh their vaccine options, continuing students have less time to decide. On March 11, the University announced that starting this summer, the campus would re-open for continuing and new students— after they show proof of vaccination.

COVID-19 One Year Later: Virginia Marks Anniversary of Virus Trace

Jourdyn Grandison | Staff Writer

Hampton, VA- This week marks the anniversary of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 reported in Virginia.

Since then, about 553,000 Virginians, including over 153,000 in Northern Virginia, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and over 43,000 Virginians have been admitted, treated, and released due to virus symptoms. In addition, the epidemic has claimed the lives of over 7,000 Virginians, including over 1,700 in Northern Virginia.

At the start of the pandemic, Center for Disease Control (CDC) officials advised washing your hands and avoiding touching your face. Mask mandates hadn’t yet been enacted and nationwide shutdowns were on the cusp of our consciousness. 

“This was unrelenting,” Gov. Northam said. “We were asked to fight a biological war without any supplies and without any guidance.”

Virginia experienced its first coronavirus case in March 2020, and due to the unknown ramifications of the virus, COVID-19 began to spread.

“I never expected quarantining to be a part of our reality,” said Hailey Keys, a Norfolk State University pre-nursing major. “When my family and I first got in contact with the virus, it was like the world was stuck on pause. It feels like a never ending cycle of loss and I’m ready for it to end.”

According to Gov. Northam, one of the many frustrating problems at the beginning of COVID-19 tracing had to do with testing. There were few tests available that had to be sent off to be analyzed by the CDC.

“The initial lack of resources in the state and nation created a chaotic situation. We used what was available through science and data,” Northam said. 

Now, Virginia is focusing its efforts on vaccine rollout.

According to the health department’s vaccine dashboard, Virginia residents have received 1.4 million vaccine doses out of a total 1.73 million received by the state. A total of 351,000 Virginians have received both doses, which are needed for the vaccine to be completely effective.

“It’s been incredible to witness the resiliency, passion and dedication of the health care workforce driving care delivery across Virginia, said Steve Arner, Carilion Clinic Chief Operating Officer and the Chairman of VHHA’s Board of Directors. “While we wouldn’t wish to be in this situation, we appreciate that Virginia has a structurally-sound health care delivery system. We are fortunate to work alongside thousands of talented clinicians and health care workers whose dedication to patients is unparalleled.” 

Peninsula Rescue Mission Serves Through the Pandemic

Daelin Brown | Staff Writer

NEWPORT NEWS- Although the COVID-19 pandemic forced the United States to shut down, the Peninsula Rescue Mission homeless shelter did not let the pandemic stop them from sheltering the homeless population of Hampton Roads. 

“We have been operating as close to normal as we can. The people who are in the shelter still have to eat, so our doors have been open throughout the entire pandemic,” said Paul Speight, director of development at Peninsula Rescue Mission. 

The Peninsula Rescue Mission has a team of about 20 staff members, but they rely heavily on volunteers that serve meals. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the shelter experienced a drastic decrease of hands-on volunteers. 

“During the shutdown we lost more than half of our volunteers. When we did away with check out at the shelter, we were providing everything ourselves,” said Speight. 

Usually, the Peninsula Rescue Mission gives people the option to check in and check out a bed when they need a space to sleep. The one big change during the pandemic was that the shelter was not letting anyone check out. Therefore, when people are checked in, they have that bed available to them for 6 months. 

The pandemic also put the shelter at 50 percent capacity from  June of 2020 until November of 2020. However, even with half capacity, they did not have to turn anyone from the shelter. 

“When you work with the homeless population, they tend to be an isolated group anyway. Their concerns were the same as ours were and being outside was safer in their minds anyway,” said Speight. “Even in winter months, we only filled to full capacity a few times.” 

When the Peninsula Rescue Mission opened back up fully, at first only 30 percent of their volunteers came back, but gradually, the number of volunteers increased.

Even with less volunteers and full capacity, the shelter had generous donations. Many people recognize the homeless population to be the most vulnerable population in the Hampton Roads community, especially during a pandemic, so the shelter found themselves with an abundance of strong financial support and new donors. 

“We have been very blessed in the area that our donations have remained strong over the pandemic,” said Speight. “Homeless shelters and food banks were two subcategories of nonprofits that tended to perform pretty well.” 

Many organizations like churches and schools that didn’t want to participate in  hands-on volunteering participated in the shelters’ “adopt a meal” campaign. 

“We had a campaign called ‘adopt a meal’ and donation groups would purchase meals from a local restaurant. This helped both local businesses with sales and saved our staff workers a night of work,” said Speight. 

Over 100 different groups helped donate to the shelter in the midst of the pandemic and the Peninsula Rescue Mission was able to receive over one thousand dollars worth of meals.

Winter storms devastate the south, impacting virtual learning for Hampton students

William Paul Ellis | Staff Writer

The Trinity River is mostly frozen after a snow storm Monday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Fort Worth, Texas. A frigid blast of winter weather across the U.S. has left more than 2 million people in Texas without power. (Yffy Yossifor/Star-Telegram via AP)

Concurrent winter storms that swept much of the continental United States has left millions throughout the south without power or water for several days, according to The Associated Press

The impact of the winter storms was widespread, with many communities still feeling the aftershock of the weather. 

For many Hampton University students, power outages from the winter storms created a new obstacle for virtual learning. 

Mariah Smith, a sophomore economic major from Houston, Texas, says that living through a utilities crisis while being a student was not just an inconvenience, but it was highly stressful. 

“The power and water outage was [sic] very stressful for my family,” Smith said. “Spending most of the day in the dark with limited food and water was very mentally taxing.” 

Furthermore, Smith feels the severity of the situation was not completely respected by her professors. 

“The power outage caused me to miss days of classes,” she said. “Accommodations were not made by professors once I reached out to them. The vast majority of them did not respond to the emails.”

For Brianna Cry, a senior kinesiology major from Jackson, Mississippi, a lack of power and water for multiple days further exacerbated her angst connected to an atypical final year at Hampton. 

“Of course, being engaged in online learning this year has been somewhat difficult for most students,” Cry said. “But not having power, water or internet for days has left me with a lot of assignments to catch up on during my last weeks of college. 

The storms, known unofficially as Winter Storm Uri and Winter Storm Viola, left deep southern states such as Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi covered in ice—a rarity for this region. This most notably led to a power outage crisis in Texas, caused by an Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) infrastructure failure, according to a report from CBS. 

According to its website, ERCOT is a nonprofit corporation that operates Texas’ electrical grid and supplies power for more than 90 percent of the state’s electrical needs. 

ERCOT is unique in being the only deregulated energy market in the nation, meaning that it is completely disconnected from the national power grid and was ultimately unable to borrow power from other states. 

The domino effect of a power outage not only led to food and water shortages but is also connected to dozens of deaths according to the Texas Tribune

The impact of the winter storms was widespread, with many communities still feeling the aftershock of the weather. 

Rochester Police Under Fire for Pepper Spraying a 9-Year-Old

Jourdyn Grandison | Staff Writer

Police officers in Rochester, New York, are under fire after pepper-spraying and handcuffing a nine-year-old girl while responding to a call of “family trouble.” 

Body camera footage, released on Sunday, show officers restraining the girl, putting her in handcuffs, and trying to get her into the back of a police car as she cries and calls for her father repeatedly. The officers then ask the girl to put her feet in the car, but after she fails to comply, they pepper-spray her. 

The video has led to public outrage and has resulted in the suspension of the officers involved.

“They should be fired,” said Elba Pope, the victim’s mother. “Regardless of what happened prior, there is no reason why a child should be pepper-sprayed when she is already detained in handcuffs in a car.”

The incident strikingly resembles Daniel Prude, an African American man who died in March after being pinned by Rochester police. Footage showed officers putting a hood over Prude’s head as he experienced a mental health crisis.

After the Prude incident, Mayor of Rochester, Lovely Warren, fired the police chief saying there was a “pervasive problem” in the police department.

In a press conference Sunday, the Interim Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said that the girl’s treatment was not acceptable.

“I’m not going to stand here and tell you that for a nine-year-old to have to be pepper-sprayed is OK. It’s not,” said Herriott-Sullivan in the press conference. “I don’t see that as who we are as a department, and we’re going to do the work we have to do to ensure that these kinds of things don’t happen.”

Mayor Warren said the girl reminded her of her daughter. 

“I have a 10-year-old daughter. So she’s a child; she’s a baby. And I can tell you that this video, as a mother, is not anything you want to see. It’s not,” said Warren during the press conference. “We have to understand compassion, empathy. When you have a child that is suffering in this way and calling out for her dad, I saw my baby’s face in her face.”

The victim arrived at the Rochester General Hospital, and was later released, according to Rochester Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson.

NEW MUTATION OF THE COVID-19 RAISES CONCERNS

Sydney McCall | Staff Writer

Associated Press/ Frank Augstein

New and more contagious strains of COVID-19 that originated in South Africa, the United Kingdom and Brazil have hit the United States.

Towards the end of January, a new COVID-19 strain known as B.1.1.7 from the United Kingdom began to emerge in the United States. This variant is 70 percent more transmissible than the original COVID-19 strain, according to the CDC. Scientists have also reported that evidence suggests that the B.1.1.7 variant may be associated with an increased risk of death.

The Virginia Department of Health has currently reported four cases of the new strain in the state. 

“Viruses change all the time, and we expect to see new strains as disease spreads,” said Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norm Oliver. “We know this variant strain spreads more quickly between people than other strains currently circulating in our communities, but we still have more to learn about whether it causes more severe illness.”

As of February 2, 33 states have reported a total of 541 cases of the new strain, according to the CDC. 

The death rate of COVID-19 is expected to rise with the new strain, as it will infect more people due to it being more contagious.

COVID-19 vaccine developers are working hard to make new shots that are proven to protect people from the new strains

When the strains first emerged, vaccine companies said that they believed their shots offered protection. However, new studies showed COVID-19 vaccines aren’t as effective against the mutation of the strain that spread in South Africa, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

The Biden-Harris Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board warned about the highly transmissible new variants.

“They’re more virulent, can cause more death, and some of them may even escape the immune response, whether it’s natural or from the vaccine,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, a member of the advisory board, to CNBC. “So it’s really important right now that we do everything possible to preserve the vaccines to make sure they keep working and that means preventing the spread of these new variants.”

 Experts say it’s urgent that people do not begin to let their guards down as winter comes to end and spring breaks begin. “Pandemic fatigue” is the phrase that has been coined to describe people being tired of restrictions outside their homes.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to the President, said in an interview with MSNBC that the new strains could be “worse than the coronavirus that ravaged the world in 2020.

Experts have continued to encourage citizens to wear masks, avoid large indoor gatherings and stay socially distant from those not in your household to prevent the spread of the virus. Some experts are suggesting doubling up on masks, to increase protection.

Outspoken Critic of Russian Government Detained Five Months After Poisoning

William Paul Ellis | Staff Writer

Alexei Navalny, the leader of the Russia of the Future Party, who rose to prominence as an outspoken critic of President Vladmir Putin, was detained by Russian authorities after returning to Moscow on January 17. 

Navalny’s return to his home country comes after a five-month stay in Germany where he received treatment  after being poisoned by the nerve agent Novichok. The chemical agent left Navalny in a medically induced coma. Novichok is the same chemical infamously used to poison former Russian spy turned double agent Sergei Skripal in 2018, according to NBC News. While many, including Navlany himself, believe the poisoning was done at the behest of President Putin, no official explanation has been offered. 

Navalny’s arrest has sparked international outrage, with many prominent government officials criticizing the Kremlin’s relentless efforts to suppress critics. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have called for European Union foriegn ministers to discuss enacting sanctions against Russia, according to Reuters. Furthermore, the foriegn ministers of Germany, Britain, France and Italy have called for Navaly’s release.

Outgoing United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that he was “deeply troubled by Russia’s decision to arrest Aleksey Navalny,” and commented in a separate statement that Navalny’s arrest was “the latest in a series of attempts to silence Navalny and other opposition figures and independent voices who are critical of Russian authorities.”

While the Kremlin has yet to offer a full explanation, Russian foriegn ministry officials have taken the opportunity to defend the decision while attempting to maintain an image of internal fairness and stability. 

“We should probably think about our image, but we’re not young ladies going to a ball,” Russian Foriegn Minister Sergei Lavrov stated. 

Foriegn Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova furthered these sentiments with a statement published on Facebook. 

“Respect international law, do not encroach on national legislation of sovereign states and address problems in your own country,” Zakharova wrote. 

In a recorded statement targeted at his supporters, Navalny called for public protests for his release. 

“They are afraid of you,” Navalny said. “I call on you to stop being silent, resist and take to the street. There are so many of us.” 

Navalny is scheduled to appear in court on February 2, where a judge will decide if his original suspended sentence will be converted to three and a half years in prison.