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.

Masks also will be given out at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 16, at Precious Blessings Academy, 4823 Bryce Lane.

He also announced that, next week, the city Office of Multicultural Affairs will give masks to residents of Worsham Mobile Home Park and Latin-Tax will give masks to residents of Southwood Apartments, both in South Side, in an effort to help Richmond’s immigrant communities.

The Richmond and Henrico County health districts also are holding community testing events next week in two locations, health officials announced.

Testing will take place in Richmond’s North Side from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 19, at Diversity Richmond Event Hall, 1407 Sherwood Ave. It will be an indoor event, while an outdoor testing event will be held 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, May 21, at Tuckahoe Middle School in Henrico, 9000 Three Chopt Road.

In a new development, the federal government has awarded more than $500,000 to two Richmond health care nonprofits to enable them to expand testing for the coronavirus.

The Capital Area Health Network was awarded $312,604 to beef up its testing at its Church Hill and North Side health centers, and Daily Planet Health Services in Downtown was awarded $201,424.

The operations were among 26 across Virginia sharing in $7.9 million in grants announced on May 7 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.