RICHMOND, Va. – Mayor Levar Stoney announced Thursday he has formally requested that the City of Richmond delay Phase One of the reopening process, scheduled to begin Friday, May 15.
Stoney says he finalized his decision after receiving data from the state that said the percent positive continues to increase in the city.
Governor Ralph Northam has said a downward trend in the percentage of positive tests over 14 days is one of the key metrics need for reopening the state.
“Our number is going up. Therefore, I cannot justify risking residents' health and safety and move forward with Phase One,” said Stoney. "Cases in the city are still going up. Our numbers have doubled in the past 14 days. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not an aggregate count. This is our daily case count."
“A slow and cautious approach to reopening must be taken at this time. I want you to know there's nothing I'd love more to snap my fingers right now and see the return to the way things were prior to COVID-19,” said Stoney. “I join a number of people in this great city who wants to move forward. But we want to move forward in a responsible and safe way.”
The Richmond NAACP has expressed their support for Stoney’s request to delay the city’s reopening.
“We lend our voice of support in the recommendation made by Richmond Mayor, Levar Stoney, to have the City of Richmond exempt from beginning Phase 1 of the Governor executive order," the organization said in a statment. "We are in no way ready to reopen. Just today, new COVID-19 cases have risen by 1,066. This is unacceptable. We cannot begin to reopen The City of Richmond without a sound strategic plan in place to protect our communities from mass evictions, disconnections, and ongoing health trauma.”
All of this comes after Stoney sent a letter to the governor Thursday morning, requesting data from the state that proves Richmond’s COVID-19 positivity rate is decreasing.
"To be clear – I want to reopen our city. However, we should only take that step when there are adequate protections for our most vulnerable communities," wrote Stoney. "That is why I am writing to formally request that VDH provide locally coded testing data for the City of Richmond and the Central Virginia Region."'
The mayor said the city requested VDH help developing Richmond's percent positive data on May 11, but the city didn't have it as of Wednesday.
Stoney said if the data cannot be provided, then he "cannot justify risking the health and safety of the residents of the City of Richmond by moving forward with Phase One" of the reopening.
The Counties of Henrico, Chesterfield, and Hanover sent the governor a joint letter supporting his reopening plan and confirming their readiness to comply with Executive Order 61 and its accompanying guidelines.
This is a developing story.
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.