5/14/2020, 6 p.m.
We strongly support the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus in its opposition to begin reopening Virginia’s businesses, restaurants and places of worship on Friday.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Gov. Ralph S. Northam, VLBC chairman and Delegate Lamont Bagby of Henrico County detailed concerns that reopening now would be “creating a situation where black and brown Virginians ... will become guinea pigs for our economy.”
He noted the situation in Georgia, where that state’s “premature re-opening has resulted in a huge spike” in COVID-19 cases — reportedly up 40 percent, with the overwhelming majority of those affected being black people and people of color.
The caucus states that it is unclear whether the proper metrics have been met to satisfy safety guidelines set out by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the medical community for reopening to start. The testing goal of 10,000 per day has not been met and certain areas of the Commonwealth still have difficulty obtaining basic and necessary cleaning supplies, the caucus points out.
Additionally, some churches opening at 50 percent capacity would result in massive gatherings of people, putting many Virginians at risk, even with social distancing and other guidelines in place, Delegate Bagby wrote.
We concur. We believe Gov. Northam, a physician, may be knuckling under the pressure of Virginia’s business community without proper regard for all Virginians’ health, particularly that of people of color, and without adequate plans to assist the most vulnerable.
While masks and hand sanitizer being distributed to areas of Richmond are important, they are not enough to inoculate or fully protect Richmonders from getting — or spreading — the virus.
If Gov. Northam is bent on opening, we urge our readers to protect themselves, their families and others, and to think twice before venturing back to business as usual.