RICHMOND, Va - Approximately 20,000 face masks and 20,000 bottles of hand sanitizer will be distributed within low-income areas of Richmond in the days to come. The program, announced Monday by Virginia’s Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Janice Underwood, is the first of its kind in the Commonwealth.
“We recognize the pilot will not address all the needs in the communities identified, but we are hopeful this will serve as a model to ensure other resources make it to their doorstep,” Dr. Underwood said.
Communities of color and immigrant populations are feeling a larger brunt of the impact of COVID-19, local and national data show. Providing access to protective supplies in neighborhoods where social distancing is more difficult helps limit where the virus takes root, Dr. Underwood said.
Local health and city officials said census data was used to determine areas of greatest need.
A mapping tool laid out poverty and chronic disease levels in the city, and officials identified areas to target the effort.
A person familiar with the program said multiple neighborhoods would receive the supplies, including Gilpin, Fairfield, and Whitcomb Court, the Midlothian Turnpike-Hull Street-Belt Boulevard triangle, and along the Jeff Davis Highway corridor.
The Richmond Fire Department and community volunteers will spearhead distribution efforts, which are expected to begin Tuesday.
“The Richmond Fire Department believes in providing the best possible health outcomes for communities in need,” Richmond Fire Chief Melvin Carter said. “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.”
“Virginia is ensuring equitable access to healthcare resources and comprehensive support to our most vulnerable communities,” Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said. “We will continue to encourage and enhance these efforts as we move through the various phases of re-opening Virginia.”
“COVID-19 isn’t singular in its disproportionate effect on communities of color with high poverty rates,” Richmond Mayor Levar 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.”
State officials said they provided the city with the supplies, but did not specify how they were obtained.
Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.
COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.
Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with sick people.Avoid non-essential travel.