City of Richmond, regional localities unite to declare states of emergency in response to COVID-19

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This morning at a regional press briefing on COVID-19, Mayor Levar M. Stoney declared a state of emergency in the City of Richmond. A state of emergency is a legal status that allows local government to have easier access to financial resources and to mobilize assets in a timely matter to address the needs of city residents.

“This declaration will enable us, working in concert with state government and regional partners, to act swiftly and responsibly as COVID-19 evolves in our region,” said Mayor Stoney. Stoney noted that the state of emergency, which is effective immediately, will coincide with the 30-day state of emergency that Governor Ralph Northam declared on March 12, 2020.

Leaders of the Counties of Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover and Henrico subsequently declared states of emergency in their respective localities and reiterated their intent to continue the regional effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“In response to a challenge that knows no city or county borders, our Central Virginia region has appropriately consolidated resources and knowledge,” said Mayor Stoney. “This is an unprecedented display of regional unity, and I’m grateful for our neighbors’ organization, coordination and collaboration, which will keep our region informed, aware and prepared.”

Local states of emergency are defined and regulated in Va. Code § 44-146.21. The emergency status makes it easier for local governments to protect the health and safety of persons and property as well as provide emergency assistance if it becomes necessary. To read the section of state code the defines local states of emergency, click here. 

Speaking at the Friday morning briefing, held at the Richmond Police Training Academy, the mayor noted that while COVID-19 is not yet prevalent in the region, there are already examples of communities -- and countries -- that are being seriously challenged because they did not take the early steps to address community spread, or realize the threat COVID-19 poses until it was already at their doorstep. 

“The leaders of this region are choosing a different path,” Mayor Stoney stated.  “We choose to stand together and do everything in our power to minimize the impact the virus will have on the residents of our region. We know that COVID-19 knows no borders. It does not know what county it’s in, or what city it’s in. We know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The mayor reviewed steps recommended by public health officials to minimize the potential for community spread, including avoiding large or mass gatherings, practicing social distancing and following common sense, personal hygiene protocols.

He said he had been in contact with the local business community and Chamber of Commerce and encouraged them to follow similar guidance, including providing options for telework and liberal use of sick leave.

He also expressed appreciation for the steps taken by the business community, school officials, the faith community and the partners throughout our region who had planned activities in the coming weeks and either postponed, canceled or rescheduled their events to mitigate the potential for the disease to become widespread in the community and impact vulnerable populations.

“They all recognize the seriousness of the potential threat posed by COVID-19,” the mayor said. “They did the right thing. They put public health above personal and organizational interest. And that is the spirit in which this group comes together today.

“Ladies and gentlemen, at the end of the day, no matter where you live, the health and safety of our residents must be our highest priority, and I’m proud to stand here today with regional partners who know that the best way to protect our localities is to stand – albeit socially distanced – together as a region.”

The city maintains and updates a web page that residents can access for the most up to date information:  

Residents can also stay informed through the Centers for Disease Control and the Virginia Department of Health.