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Local States of Emergency Declared in Response to COVID-19

Mayor Stoney standing before officials at a podium
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney declared a state of emergency earlier today. (Photo: Whittney Evans/VPM)

Local states of emergencies were declared Friday in the Richmond metro-area. Government officials also announced plans to open COVID-19 screening and testing clinics. 

This includes the city of Richmond and Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover and Henrico Counties.  

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said the state of emergency will coincide with the statewide emergency declaration that Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday. 

“These declarations will enable us, working in concert with the state government, to act swiftly and responsibly to marshal resources,” Stoney said. “And they will enable us to work collaboratively to address the needs of our communities as COVID-19 evolves in our region.”

Thirty cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Virginia, according to the Department of Health. Ten of those individuals have been hospitalized and none have died. 

“While this infectious disease has yet to become prevalent in our region, we know that the numbers will grow,” Stoney said. 

The officials activated the Central Virginia All Hazards Incident Management Teamand have asked local government leaders to meet on a regular basis to share information and resources. 

Chesterfield County Fire and EMS implemented protocols in January, requiring the Emergency Communications Center screen 911 calls for potential COVID-19 symptoms. They said this gives first responders time to prepare for potential contamination. They’ve also prepared for the possibility of reduced staff and reduced levels of service. 

The Central Virginia All Hazards Incident Management Team has identified two potential locations for screening and testing clinics that they are trying to get up and running by next week.

Dr. Danny Avula, director of the Richmond city and Henrico County Health Departments, said many people in the region have not known where to get tested or have been told by their doctors that there are no tests available. As of Thursday, the state public health lab had the capacity to test between 300-400 individuals. But, Avula said commercial tests through two major companies, Labcorps and Quest Diagnostics, are available to healthcare providers who order them. 

“Part of our work as the central region incident management team is to get the word out to those providers, to help support them in any way they can,” Avula said. “We probably need to do a better job of making the connection to Labcorps and Quest to increase the availability of testing and then ensure the public knows.”

He said by next week, most of the providers in the region will have access to tests. 

Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Leslie Hayli stressed that the community can stay safe without panicking. 

“We want our folks not to be engaged in an alarmist perspective, but a perspective of being well-informed about the issues and the potential risks they face,” Haylie said.

Continue to follow VPM News for continuing coronavirus coverage.

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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