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City announces 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, it was announced Tuesday.

RVAHub Staff

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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, it was announced Tuesday.

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 support 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.

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Suspect Sought in Theft from Broad Street Building

It’s not stated by RPD but based on Tweets earlier this week we believe this is Mayor Stoney’s re-election headquarters.

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From RPD:

Richmond Police detectives are asking for the public’s help to identify the individual in the attached photos who is suspected of stealing from a building on West Broad Street on Monday.

During the early morning hours on Monday, October 12, the suspect entered the building in the 2600 block of W. Broad Street and stole a large television from the common area. The suspect was last seen heading west on Broad Street with the TV.

Anyone with information about the identity of this suspect is asked to call Fourth Precinct Detective K.L.  Robinson at (804) 646-6820 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at www.7801000.com.  The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used.  All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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Daily Planet Health Services holding supply drive through end of October

A full list of in-demand items is available on the nonprofit’s website, but among other things, the needs include generic freezer bags (quart and gallon in size); new men’s and women’s underwear, new or gently used t-shirts and socks; prepaid phone cards and prepackaged snacks.

RVAHub Staff

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In advance of colder temperatures and the winter months, Daily Planet Health Services (DPHS) will hold a supply drive throughout the month of October. Supplies collected will be distributed directly to those experiencing homelessness and patients of the nonprofit’s Medical Respite and Safe Haven programs, which offer patients a place to recuperate, re-establish and reconnect – including homeless and veteran populations.

A full list of in-demand items is available on the nonprofit’s website, but among other things, the needs include generic freezer bags (quart and gallon in size); new men’s and women’s underwear, new or gently used t-shirts and socks; prepaid phone cards and prepackaged snacks.

“Traditionally, the summer and winter months are the most difficult for those experiencing homelessness to navigate, and this time of year will be further complicated because many of the resources traditionally utilized by this population have been affected by COVID-19,” said Taylor Garrett, outreach coordinator for Daily Planet Health Services. “Many of the creature comforts that we take for granted on a day-to-day basis are inaccessible for those experiencing homelessness, and these donations will make an impact right away.”

Donated items can be brought to the nonprofits 517 W Grace St Health Center M-F from Oct. 12-30 between the hours of 8 a.m.-5 p.m. In an effort to promote social distancing within the facility, those participating are encouraged to call 804-783-2505 to notify DPHS of the delivery, and a member of the team will come out to collect the items.

“In July and August, we were absolutely heartened by the generosity and support shown by the Richmond community, who turned out and supported our work to keep the homeless population nourished and hydrated during the hottest months of the year,” said Anita Bennett, acting CEO of Daily Planet Health Services. “We truly would not be able to succeed without the support of the Richmond community, and our hope is that those around the city will come together with the common goal of continuing to assist those in need.”

Individuals and families also are encouraged to take part in service projects, and a full list of opportunities is available on the nonprofit’s website. The projects were designed to help educate and engage those who want to help in a hands-on way, but have been prevented from doing so due to the pandemic. A range of options are available, which can be completed individuals, families or groups of students, church groups or offices.

If individuals would like to assist the DPHS in this effort, but are uncomfortable with purchasing items in-store and dropping them off at the health center, fiscal donations can be tagged with “Supply Drive” in the additional comments section of the online donation form under “Donate” at dailyplanetva.org, which will be used by the nonprofit to purchase resources off of the supply list.

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Black Lives Matter renews interest in Richmond’s Black culture and history

The Black Lives Matter movement has helped renew interest in Richmond’s African American culture and history, according to community leaders.

Capital News Service

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By Cierra Parks

The Black Lives Matter movement has helped renew interest in Richmond’s African American culture and history, according to community leaders.

BLK RVA is an initiative launched in August 2019 between Richmond Region Tourism and 20 community leaders to highlight historic African American tourist attractions and engage visitors in events that support Richmond’s Black community. The group continues to promote Black-centered tourism in light of recent events. BLK RVA was recently awarded the Richmond Region Tourism Chairman’s Award in recognition of its contributions over the past year.

Tameka Jefferson, the community relations manager for Richmond Region Tourism and BLK RVA, said the Black Lives Matter movement has generated more interest in African American tourism, which she said is “long overdue.” Although Black Lives Matter began in 2013, the movement gained more support this year.

“Now is the time that we do need to come together as a community to support our businesses, to support our city and our region,” Jefferson said.

Jefferson also said that in the months following the death of George Floyd in police custody, she has seen more people visit the area around the Robert E. Lee statue. The area has been transformed into space used by the community for art, protest and memorial — and even basketball.

She said people are migrating to this area now that there has been a “staple of just coming together and a staple of community and uprising.”

BLK RVA’s mission is to illustrate that the Richmond region has evolved and is now a multicultural hub that specializes in four pillars: arts and entertainment, food and drink, community and history. She said the state capital is often seen through its outdated history–an outlook that needs to change.

In addition to African American-centered events and fundraisers, BLK RVA promotes the patronizing of what they call “rooted and rising” businesses; ones that have been around a while and others that are up and coming.

One established business is the Elegba Folklore Society, which was established 30 years ago. The Society hosts the annual Down Home Family Reunion and Juneteenth Freedom celebrations in addition to guided heritage tours along the Trail of Enslaved Africans and other historic sites. The trail details the history of slave trade from Africa to Virginia, following a route through the area’s former slave markets and also highlighting African American life leading up to the Civil War.

Omilade Janine Bell, president and artistic director of the Elegba Folklore Society, said the company prides itself on educating people because Black stories are often not fully told. She has noticed a renewed interest in learning about Black history in light of the recent Black Lives Matter movement. Jefferson echoes that statement.

“His (George Floyd’s) loss-of-life story has opened the eyes of many whose eyes had been shut tightly before,” Bell said. “Now there is a heightened awareness among Black people and others about the lack of equity.”

Jaynell Pittman-Shaw owns Maple Bourbon, a restaurant serving breakfast and lunch in Richmond’s downtown area that is one of BLK RVA’s “rising” businesses. Pittman-Shaw believes there is a new spotlight on inequity in the Black community.

“That is what people are protesting about right now: systemic and institutional racism,” Pittman-Shaw said. “Black business owners do not have access to the same resources that should be available to any business owner,” but black businesses need more support to thrive.

Jefferson said BLK RVA donated money from online merchandise sales to the Richmond Black Restaurant Experience, which hosts a week-long event in the spring promoting black-owned food businesses. Over $15,000 was raised and distributed evenly among 35 Black Restaurant Week participants affected by COVID-19. Pittman- Shaw was one of the grantees. She plans to “pay it forward” by using the $500 grant she received to help another black-owned restaurant that did not participate in Black Restaurant Week.

Restaurants such as Big Herm’s Kitchen and Soul Taco used the money to help pay employees who were affected when COVID-19 restructured business.

The Richmond Black Restaurant Experience supports black, food-focused businesses, including restaurants, food trucks and catering services. They have raised nearly $50,000, surpassing their new goal of $25,000 according to the group’s GoFundMe page.

In addition to restaurants, other attractions have made adjustments since COVID-19 began. Many of them have migrated to virtual experiences. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture are offering virtual exhibits, including the All in Together collaborative project and Determined: The 400-Year Struggle for Black Equality. The Elegba Folklore Society broadcast its Juneteenth celebration on Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo.

The organization also recently promoted the Black is Beautiful beer initiative, a nationwide collaboration created by Marcus J. Baskerville, head brewer and co-owner at Weathered Souls Brewing Co. in San Antonio. Over 30 Virginia craft breweries participated to support people of color and raise funds for police reform and legal defense. Richmond breweries put their spin on the traditional imperial stout recipe to raise money for the Black is Beautiful cause. The Answer, Hardywood, The Veil and Lickinghole Creek were among the Richmond-area breweries that created stouts for the initiative. Each brewery will donate the proceeds to organizations that support the Black is Beautiful cause.

BLK RVA has also highlighted events such as the RVA Black Farmers Market, the Richmond Night Market and events hosted by UnlockingRVA.

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