COMMENTARY: Moving Forward From the Pandemic

The coronavirus has thrown off many of the rhythms and routines of daily life. Old habits were abandoned and new ones learned, all in an effort to stay active but also diminish the chance of contracting the virus.

As Virginia gradually reopens, some of those old habits and practices will return and others will be back in a modified form. But new practices may also be adopted, and they could be the starting point for significant innovation.

For example, technology that helped cope with social distancing has certainly boomed.

One notable advance is being pioneered in the New River Valley. In Christiansburg, school library books will soon be delivered to students by drone, a new use of the technology. As reported in the Washington Post, the deliveries will be powered by the company Wing, which received the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval last year to use its drones for delivery.

With that earlier approval, Wing had already been delivering food and goods in the Christiansburg area. More people sought drone delivery services with the onset of the coronavirus. Now library books will be among the deliveries made.

I am encouraged to see drone technology used in this way. This development could open the door for wider uses. It’s a promising new technology that has taken root in the Ninth District, the first place to have it in the United States.

Where the coronavirus revealed ways to improve how we do things, we should take the opportunity to build on them.

At the federal level, this may mean more streamlining of regulation. The emergency situation created by the pandemic allowed for red tape to be temporarily cut in a variety of areas. I believe it should be asked whether all that red tape needs to be replaced as the emergency subsides or, where appropriate, reduced or removed.

It also means proper support for areas to implement technology. With social distancing in place, broadband connections became even more important, but not every area had sufficient access in the first place. I remain committed to closing the digital divide to make sure this is less of an issue going forward.

It can be done both through expanding the fiber networks that deliver service and exploring new technologies like low-orbit satellite coverage. I was pleased to see the Federal Communications Commission recently allow more use of TV “white spaces” for broadband service, a step in the right direction.

The coronavirus pandemic was an extraordinary event. It is worth taking stock of its lessons as we resume our lives.

Make Sure You’ve Been Counted in the Census

Every ten years, the Census counts the number of people living in our country. The Constitution obligates this count, and although the 2020 Census ran into the extraordinary circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, the count continues with adjustments.

It began with an invitation to complete the Census, mailed to most households in mid-March. Households that did not respond have been sent reminders and a paper questionnaire.

Field operations were suspended due to the coronavirus but have been resumed in phases across the country depending on federal, state, and local guidelines. Census takers will visit households that have not yet responded beginning in August.

We all have an interest in making sure the count is accurate. It influences the share of federal funding for local communities and determines how they are counted in districts for the U.S. House of Representatives and both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly. A correct count contributes to our voice in representative government and supports access to a fair share of funding for the next ten years.

Counting rural areas in the Census can be difficult, and Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District is no exception. Information from the Census Bureau indicates that Virginia has a 66 percent self-response rate overall. Southwest Virginia’s response rate is climbing, but we are not reporting as well as in other areas.

There are a variety of ways to be counted in the Census. You can do so online at or by phone at 1-844-330-2020. If you have received a paper questionnaire from the Census Bureau, you have the option to complete it and mail it.

If you have not yet completed the 2020 Census, I urge you to do so today.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office.  You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.

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