City, state begin COVID-19 health equity pilot to provide masks, hand sanitizer in underserved neighborhoods
This week the Stoney administration announced the city and state have collaborated to roughly 40 thousand units of personal protective equipment (PPE) to underserved neighborhoods in Richmond.
At the outset of the pandemic, the Office of Mayor Levar Stoney reached out to the state concerned about the evident racial disparities in the infection and mortality rates associated with COVID-19.
In response, the state has obtained 20 thousand face masks, 20 thousand bottles of hand sanitizers, and 10 thousand printed public health resources for the city to distribute in its communities most vulnerable to the disease.
The program aims to increase equitable access to PPE to communities that may be most adversely impacted by COVID-19 in an effort to safeguard them against the virus. Data shows that people of color are dying from COVID-19 at disproportionate rates and that immigrant and undocumented populations are also suffering disparately.
“COVID-19 isn’t singular in its disproportionate effect on communities of color with high poverty rates,” said Mayor Stoney. “The healthcare disparities highlighted by this pandemic are a manifestation of historic injustices, which we can help address with targeted, equity-driven efforts like this program.”
“Virginia is ensuring equitable access to healthcare resources and comprehensive support to our most vulnerable communities,” said Governor Northam. “We will continue to encourage and enhance these efforts as we move through the various phases of re-opening Virginia.”
Distributed by the Richmond Fire Department in collaboration with community members, the hand sanitizer and masks will help reduce the spread of the virus in communities that would have otherwise lacked access to the in-demand items.
“The Richmond Fire Department believes in providing the best possible health outcomes for communities in need,” said Chief Melvin Carter of the Richmond Fire Department. “Our goal is to improve community health during and after this pandemic, which starts with engaging the communities that need it most. In the upcoming months, distribution of supplies will continue across the city for targeted areas of need.”
The distribution plan is based on exhibited need. The state has provided the city with health equity data by Census tract to facilitate the city’s distribution effort.
Additionally, the state has provided health equity training to Richmond Fire employees.
Program administrators are also identifying need through engaging with neighborhood and community leaders and amplifying the efforts of groups already distributing personal protective equipment on a smaller scale.
“We will continue to work in collaboration with individuals and groups within the community to ensure we reach, to the greatest extent possible, the populations in Richmond who don’t have everyday access to these potentially life-saving resources,” said Osita Iroegbu, Senior Policy Advisor to Mayor Stoney. “We hope to strengthen this pilot in ways that will deepen engagement with the community and build greater opportunities for access and equity for our community members who too often go overlooked and underserved.”
By inviting trusted community voices into the conversation, the city aims to ensure an inclusive, collaborative community engagement approach to this health equity effort.
Questions about the program and distribution plan should be directed to Osita Iroegbu at firstname.lastname@example.org.