Stoney administration develops plan to expand testing, increase access to protective supplies, address small business needs during two-week reopening delay
In response to the state granting the City of Richmond a two-week delay in entering Phase One of the statewide reopening plan, the Stoney administration will be ramping up the city’s efforts to support a safe approach to reopening in the near-term.
Today, the administration announced plans to use the next two weeks to expand testing access, distribute more face masks and hand sanitizer throughout the city, support underserved communities, expand safe spaces for social distancing and address the needs of Richmond’s small business community.
Expanding testing capacity and collaboration with safety net
Four weeks ago, the City of Richmond and Richmond City Health District began hosting COVID-19 testing events in the city’s areas of highest needs. RCHD has since conducted six testing events in the city, in and adjacent to public housing communities and along the Hull Street corridor in Southside.
The city now plans to significantly expand public testing capacity with a continued emphasis on making testing accessible to priority communities with higher vulnerability to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With support from the Virginia Department of Health to ensure adequate capacity at the state lab, RCHD will organize community testing events in high-need areas three times a week for Richmond residents that meet screening criteria. RCHD will use epidemiological surveillance data to inform priorities for those parts of the city that may benefit most from increased access to public testing. This will include revisiting sites where testing has previously been offered.
In addition to the testing event at Diversity Richmond on May 19, the following events have been scheduled in the coming week:
· May 21, Tuckahoe Middle School from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.; and
· May 22, East Lawn Shopping Center from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
City residents should contact RCHD’s COVID-19 Call Center to find out if they qualify and to register for these testing events: 804-205-3501.
To evaluate the outcomes of these expanded testing efforts, in addition to results from our hospital systems and network of other providers, the city will monitor the newly added data from the Virginia Department of Health about the locality’s percent positivity, or what percentage of tests administered result in positives. The city, VDH, and RCHD will use this data to inform plans for the gradual reopening timeline.
Ensuring a connection to a primary care provider for all residents who test positive for COVID-19 is critical to helping Richmonders monitor their symptoms and manage any underlying conditions. The city will be collaborating with members of the local safety net to facilitate access to primary care, and RCHD will invest in professional navigation services to match residents with providers and other needed supportive services. The city’s commitment is to make professional medical care available to all residents with a confirmed case of COVID-19, regardless of those residents’ insurance status.
Safety net providers will also be able to expand their testing operations, working with the city to add capacity. As increasing numbers of city residents are able to access testing, the Mayor’s Office, RCHD and VDH will be able to more effectively monitor the progression and trends of the disease in the city.
Providing face coverings and sanitizing supplies
A priority intervention to protect the health of all of our neighbors is for everyone to wear a cloth or disposable face covering whenever in public places or going out of the house. The science is clear that this can dramatically improve outcomes, driving down rates of disease transmission. The City of Richmond is invested in ensuring that residents can and will lead the way in making face covering a new, positive practice the entire community can embrace.
On May 12, the city began distributing 40,000 units of face coverings and sanitizing supplies provided by the state for Richmond communities that may benefit from immediate access to these resources. The city will continue that distribution, coordinated through the Richmond Fire Department.
The city will also provide 500 units of face coverings and sanitizing supplies to each member of Richmond City Council for distribution within their district based on their specialized knowledge of need.
Supporting small businesses
The Stoney administration recognizes the challenges small businesses face at this time. Existing programs remain open for application. Businesses can apply for the Richmond Small Business Disaster Loan here. The $20,000 zero-interest loan has a six-month payment deferment period and is then repaid over 48 months.
Restaurants can apply for the First Responder Meals Program here. Participating restaurants are paid by the city for providing meals for public safety first responders while on duty.
Mayor Stoney has sent another letter asking for federal assistance to U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. He strongly requests that the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program be modified and that Virginia’s Senators support Senator Booker’s Small Business Local Relief Act, which would send $50 billion in direct assistance to localities and states to establish and grow local relief funds. He will be in ongoing contact with both senators.
In addition to federal advocacy, the city is working regionally to ensure small businesses are prepared to keep customers and employees as safe as possible throughout the reopening timeline.
Utilizing public space productively and safely
The city is preparing to assist businesses in navigating potential patio expansions by standing up an internal task force comprised of representatives from the Department of Public Works, Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities, and Department of Planning and Development Review. Once the data indicates a negative trend in percent positivity and the city enters Phase One of reopening, this effort will both support the Richmond business community to more safely offer Phase One outdoor dining and create a network that allows for ample and ongoing social distancing in public spaces.
To submit a proposal for new or additional patio space or inquire for more information, please visit www.rvastrong.org/outdoorseating and fill out the interest form.
The Stoney administration has sent a request to members of Richmond City Council and their staff asking for their help in coordinating with local merchant and neighborhood associations to propose equitable opportunities for open streets, pedestrian-friendly spaces, and expanded patios with room to maintain social distancing. By working with local associations, council members will be able to bring forward optimal opportunities for the creative use of streets, sidewalks and public spaces that are logistically feasible and have community buy-in.
The recommendations will then be reviewed by an internal city team with staff from the Department of Public Works, Richmond Police Department, Department of Planning and Development Review and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities.
For updates on the city’s response to COVID-19, visit richmondgov.com/covid19.
For ways to help and to get help, visit the city’s resource hub at RVAStrong.org.
For a complete list of available city services, view the list here. If you have follow-up questions, contact RVA311.-->