RICHMOND, Va. -- We've reached the end of the year! Can you believe it? It is time to take a look back at 2021 and recall the year's most-viewed stories on WTVR.com. Before we take a look at the list, what will you most remember about 2021? Drop us a note and we may share your thoughts on TV. And now, we present to you the most viewed stories on WTVR.com in 2021.
In August 2021, Dr. Rutherfoord Rose, Director of the Virginia Poison Center located at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, said he feared legalizing marijuana in Virginia would lead to a rise in cases of children ingesting marijuana edibles and getting sick. Rose and his team handle poison emergency calls in Virginia.
“If you’re not there the child sees the medicine on the table and thinks it’s candy,” Dr. Rose said about products with names like Whiz Edibles Strawberry Gummies, Neon Sour Bears, Mini Brownies, and Doobie Doo Cookies. "Clearly, the states that have legalized marijuana in past years have seen an increase in exposures in children."
In 2019, Virginia Poison Center saw 13 calls related to individuals ingesting marijuana edibles and having adverse reactions. That number rose to 35 exposure calls in 2020 and 78 exposure calls as of August 4, 2021.
“Seventy-six percent of these were in children and it seemed like two and three years old are at the highest risk,” Dr. Rose stated. “About half of our human exposure calls involve children under the age of six.” Read more here
A 13-year-old girl was the victim of an unthinkable act of violence while walking with a friend in March 2021. Lucia Bremer was shot and killed on a Friday afternoon while on a neighborhood walking path near Godwin High School in Henrico's West End. In the days, that followed a community came together to support and Bremer family and Lucia's friends impacted by the violence. In the weeks and months that followed, a 14-year-old boy was arrested and charged with Bremer's murder. This month a judge ruled the teenage suspect could be tried as an adult. You can read more about the situation here.
Sometimes a news story produces such an overwhelming response that it deserves a follow-up. Such was the case in June 2021 when an upset dad dumped 80,000 pennies outside his 18-year-old daughter Avery's Henrico home and told her mom it was his final child support payment. We'll revisit that story later in this list. But it was the world's response to our initial story that earned the #8 spot on the Top 10 Most Viewed Stories of the Year.
The story went viral after it was posted on WTVR.com, not just due to the video of the man dumping the coins, but because of what Avery and her mom did with the money. They donated the cash to Safe Harbor, a Henrico-based non-profit that helps survivors of sexual and domestic violence and human trafficking.
"Turning around and donating that money to moms and children in need, I feel like that really turns this situation into a positive. You can learn from it," Avery said.
As news of the penny dump and subsequent donation made its way from WTVR.com to national news websites, to cable news networks, Avery's poise and kindness resonated with people around the world. Those people reached out to Safe Harbor.
Those people reached out to Safe Harbor.
"Our online donation page just blew up," Mary Maupai, Development Director at Safe Harbor, said. "We've gotten over $47,000 worth of donations locally, nationally, internationally as far as England and beyond."
As the story continues to spread, Safe Harbor and the people helped by the nonprofit, continued to benefit. Read more here.
As noted earlier in this list, 2021 was the year marijuana was legalized (sort of) in Virginia. The half-baked legalization left a lot of people asking a lot of cannabis questions.
One such question was about the legality of 'Puff and Paint' parties.
“I have a lot of customers calling, over a dozen I would say, that called since the beginning of July asking if they can smoke and paint,” Tequila Canty, who operates The Art Lounge in Henrico’s East End, told CBS 6.
Kelly Cournoyer said no.
Cournoyer, an associate attorney with the Toscano Law Group, warned businesses should pause before allowing customers to puff.
“Retail sales haven’t started yet, and we don’t expect to see that for a couple of years,” she said in the July 2021 report. “So, right now I definitely advise clients that it’s not necessarily a good idea to get involved in any type of gifting or use of marijuana on their premises until we have a regulatory framework established by the Cannabis Control Authority.” Read more here
It is no secret that weather forecasting and reporting are among the most important things local news provides to the community. So it should come as no surprise that a weather story makes this list. In July 2021, Tropical Storm Elsa was headed toward Virginia bringing rain, wind, and the potential for flash floods. About 60,000 Dominion Energy customers in Virginia ended up losing power during the storm. Want today's forecast? You can find that here.
You people really love marijuana, well, reading about it anyway. Our third marijuana-related story on the list focused on how Virginia's new marijuana laws impacted housing managers who are trying to navigate conflicts between tenants and their neighbors as the marijuana odor wafted through apartment buildings around the city.
"There are many properties out there right now that have lease agreements where the residents agree not to smoke, and it is a smoke-free community," Patrick McCloud, CEO of the Virginia Apartment Management Association, said.
McCloud said just because the laws have changed doesn't mean all renters can immediately start using or growing cannabis without checking their lease or talking to their property management.
After COVID brought many changes to Virginia in 2020, most Virginians were able to get a COVID vaccine in 2021. And while most vaccinated Virginians experience no or mild side effects, there were situations that raised concern. In February 2021, 58-year-old Drene Keye, of Gloucester, died hours after she received the Pfizer vaccine, according to her daughter.
The grandmother of six lived with diabetes, sleep apnea, and obesity, making her eligible for the first dose before many other Virginians.
Doctors told Keye's daughter her mother suffered a flash pulmonary edema.
"Doctors told me that it can be caused by anaphylaxis," Lisa Jones said.
Anaphylaxis is a severe adverse life-threatening allergic reaction that rarely occurs after vaccination.
According to the CDC, in the United States, as of January 19, 2021, there were 45 cases of anaphylaxis with the Pfizer shot out of the several million given.
The risks were also spelled out on the paperwork Keyes received prior to her shot. Read more here
And they say you can't get addicted to marijuana. This list appears to be!
The third most-read story on the website and top marijuana-related posted provided a handy list of do's and don'ts for marijuana users, growers, and general enthusiasts. Did we mention Virginia's new marijuana laws were a bit confusing? Read more here
Every once in a while, a local news story will garner worldwide attention Such was the case in May 2021 when a Virginia dad dumped 80,000 pennies outside his 18-year-old daughter's Henrico home and told her mom it was his final child support payment. The story posted on WTVR in June 2021 went viral, not only due to the video of the man dumping the coins, but also, and more importantly, because of what the young woman and her mom did with the money. They donated the $824 payment to Safe Harbor, a Henrico-based non-profit that helps survivors of sexual and domestic violence and human trafficking.
In response to that kind gesture, donations began pouring into Henrico from around the world. Ultimately Safe Harbor collected more than $50,000 in donations off that single incident.
"[Her] single donation of $824 resulted in over 300 donations totaling over $50,000 to support survivors of sexual and domestic violence and human trafficking," Mary Maupai, Development Director at Safe Harbor, said when reached via email this week. "We are beyond grateful for this support. Read more here
The answer to most questions might be money, money may be the root of all evil, and money may not be able to buy you love, but money is for sure the #1 story on WTVR.com for 2021. In late April 2021, WTVR.com readers were excited to read about Virginia's minimum wage increase.
The minimum wage increased from $7.25 to $9.50 an hour on Saturday, May 1.
The state’s minimum wage was set to increase in January 2021 but was delayed until May 1 over the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Read more here
So there you have it, that's the list. Are you surprised? Click here to let us know which stories you most remember from 2021.