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Richmond, State Officials Pilot Program Providing Masks To Minority Communities

blue surgical masks laying on a table
In total, the city has received around 20,000 masks and sanitizer bottles from the state.(Photo: jardin/Pixabay)

Richmond firefighters and community volunteers handed out masks and hand sanitizer in the city’s East End Tuesday afternoon.

It was part of a pilot program with state officials to deliver protective equipment to communities of color during the coronavirus pandemic. In total, the city has received around 20,000 masks and sanitizer bottles from the state.

Fire Chief Melvin Carter said they are choosing neighborhoods based on census data that shows larger populations of people with underlying conditions and worse health outcomes.

“Our goal has always been to improve community health before and after this pandemic, and it all starts with engaging communities that are most in need,” he said.

Firefighters were joined by more than 50 volunteers from the community. In addition to protective equipment, information on the COVID-19 disease and testing was distributed.

If the pilot is successful, Carter said other under-resourced neighborhoods in south Richmond could be targeted next.

The program is a response to health data showing that Black and Latino communities are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. So far, 16 of 18 deaths from the virus in Richmond have been African Americans. Latinos currently make up 20 percent of the city’s confirmed cases despite only being roughly 7 percent of its population.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said the program could help provide equitable access to information and protective equipment during the pandemic.

“COVID-19 isn’t singular in its disproportionate effect on communities of color with high poverty rates,” Stoney said in a statement. “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.”

Anyone looking for information on future distribution sites or how to volunteer should contact Osita Iroegbu at [email protected].

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