Officials pump up COVID-19 testing, begin mask and hand sanitizer distribution to city's at-risk residents

Ronald E. Carrington | 5/14/2020, 6 p.m.
Efforts to combat COVID-19 continue in Richmond’s high-risk communities and underserved neighborhoods.
City firefighters Walter Davis, left, and Kevin Henderson, center, and fire Lt. Mark Chase deliver face masks, hand sanitizer and information to a resident on North 20th Street in Church Hill on Tuesday. The team from Fire Station 11 was taking part in the city’s effort to distribute thousands of protective items to people in the areas regarded as high risk for COVID-19. Photo by Regina H. Boone

Efforts to combat COVID-19 continue in Richmond’s high-risk communities and underserved neighborhoods.

On Tuesday, the City of Richmond launched a pilot program with the state to provide coronavirus safety kits comprised of face masks, hand sanitizer and literature printed in the top five languages spoken in the state to people in the capital city.

At a media event held in the parking lot of Armstrong High School in the East End, Mayor Levar M. Stoney was joined by Gov. Ralph S. Northam, Richmond Delegate Delores McQuinn, City Council President Cynthia I. Newbille, Richmond School Board Vice Chair Cheryl Burke and Dr. Janice Underwood, the governor’s chief diversity officer and head of the Virginia Health Equity Leadership Task Force, to talk about the effort.

According to the governor, more than 20,000 face masks, 20,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and 10,000 flyers with information will be available for the city to distribute.

“Distributing these items is a reflection of health care disparities this pandemic highlights, as well as historic injustices, which we can help address with targeted, equity-driven efforts,” Mayor Stoney told the crowd, the majority of whom were wearing masks and standing 6 feet apart in an effort to socially distance and curb the spread of COVID-19.

Tuesday marked one of the first public appearances for Delegate McQuinn, who was stricken with COVID-19 along with her husband and daughter.

Since successfully coming out of in-home quarantine last month, Delegate McQuinn has been on a mission to help others avoid the virus, which has disproportionally impacted African-Americans in the number of positive cases and deaths. She believes it is imperative that people have no excuse to say they do not have a mask or hand sanitizer to protect themselves.

“The effort today — generated by the state, city and fire department, and supported by the faith community — demonstrates the community coming together to support those disproportionally affected by this pandemic,” she said.

The items will be distributed by the Richmond Fire Department in collaboration with other community groups and individuals based on exhibited need, officials said. The state has provided the city with health equity data based on census tracts to help in the effort.

Some of the items were given out after the news conference to people attending the event, while some of the officials, including Ms. Burke, distributed kits in a door-to-door drop in her district.

Separately, City Councilman Michael Jones, 9th District, announced Wednesday that a drive-thru face mask giveaway will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, May 14, at Beauti-Full beauty supply shop, 5528 Hull Street Road on a first-come, first-served basis.

Dr. Jones, in partnership with Charles Willis of United Communities Against Crime and Jong Lim, owner of the beauty supply shop, is coordinating the distribution of 10,000 disposable N95 masks that were donated.

Masks will be given to the management offices at Blue Ridge Estates, Chesterfield Square, Chippenham Place and Norcroft Townhomes for distribution to residents.

Masks also will be given to Miles Jones and G.H. Reid elementary schools for volunteers serving Richmond Public Schools families and for families who are picking up food from those locations or at neighborhood meal distribution sites.