Virginia

Updated at 3:33 p.m. ET

Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Monday that schools in Virginia will be closed for the foreseeable future as a result of the spread of the coronavirus.

"Today I'm directing all schools in Virginia to remain closed at least through the end of this academic year," Northam said during an afternoon press conference.

Northam added that he is issuing an executive order effective at midnight Tuesday, placing additional restrictions on businesses that serve the public.

Updated at 5:11 p.m. ET

Virginia's Democratic governor seemed poised to make broad changes to his state's gun control laws, but was dealt a stinging blow by his own party Monday when a state Senate committee blocked a bill that would have, among other things, banned sales of assault weapons.

Four Democrats on Virginia's Senate Judiciary Committee broke ranks with their party handing the Republican minority a victory in tabling the bill for the remainder of the year. It also sent the measure to the state's Crime Commission for further review.

Localities in Virginia are closer to having the power to remove some 220 Confederate statues and monuments in public spaces.

Democrats, who took control of the House and Senate in November, passed two similar bills on near party-line votes on Tuesday. The bills generally allow cities to "remove, relocate, contextualize, cover or alter" monuments in public spaces.

Updated at 4:40 p.m. ET

Thousands of gun ownership enthusiasts and armed militia members gathered at the Virginia State Capitol on Monday for a rally aimed at quashing new gun restrictions. The rally ended without any violence, but Richmond remains under a state of emergency and Gov. Ralph Northam's temporary ban on weapons on Capitol grounds will remain in place until Tuesday.

Updated at 12:05 p.m. ET Thursday

Many advocates for women's rights are watching Virginia closely as the state's legislature began its session Wednesday. They're watching because the Equal Rights Amendment has a good chance of being ratified by Virginia lawmakers this year.

If the ERA passes there, Virginia would become the 38th state to ratify it; an amendment needs 38 states to be fully ratified and added to the U.S. Constitution.

Updated Wednesday 5:43 p.m. ET

"They're designed to terrorize and menace."

That's how artist Kehinde Wiley describes towering monuments to Confederate leaders that stand in the middle of Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. One statue depicts cavalry commander Gen. J.E.B. Stuart sitting upon a muscular horse, striking a heroic pose.

About a mile away, a similar bronze sculpture has been installed; but instead of a Confederate general, it portrays a black man with dreads, wearing a hoodie and Nikes.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Friday that he is suspending a policy that permitted correctional staff to perform a strip search on an 8-year-old girl last month as she was trying to visit her father.

The incident took place days before the Thanksgiving holiday at Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn, about a 75-minute drive west of Richmond.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam vows it's "a new day and a new landscape" in Virginia. He says when Democrats take over the state legislature for the first time in a generation at the start of the new year, passing gun violence prevention laws will be a top priority.

He adds guns "shouldn't be a partisan issue," even though he says he's prepared to pass new "common sense" gun laws without Republican support.

Tuesday's statewide elections in Kentucky and Virginia were a big night for Democrats. And the results tell us a few things about national politics, consequential issues and President Trump.

In Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshear, the son of former Gov. Steve Beshear, claimed victory Tuesday night and narrowly leads incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin by about 5,000 votes. Bevin has not yet conceded the race.

Updated at 2:45 a.m. ET Wednesday

Democrats had a strong election night on Tuesday, leading the race for governor in Kentucky and taking back full control of the Virginia legislature for the first time in nearly a quarter century.

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