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City Mourns 224 Richmonders Who Died from COVID-19

Church with bell tower
The bell tower at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond. (Photo: David Streever/VPM News)

The bell at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church rang 224 times Friday afternoon, commemorating the 224 Richmonders who died from COVID-19 in the past year.

Mayor Levar Stoney proclaimed the day as COVID-19 Remembrance Day, marking the occasion by planting two oak trees at the Powhatan Community Center in the East End. Speaking at the tree planting, Stoney reflected on the city’s ongoing battle against the virus.

“In times of war, church bells tolled, ribbons were tied around trees and lights were pointed toward the heavens,” Stoney said. “That seems appropriate here. Because for the last year, we have been at war with an invisible enemy.”

Stoney was joined at the event by numerous faith and community leaders, including Dr. Danny Avula, who is leading the state’s vaccination efforts. Avula said the way  Richmond came together amidst hardship was a bright spot in the past year.

“Our city and our entire region have really come together to serve those that we don’t always think about,” he said. “The context of the pandemic has really allowed us to lift those up who need it most.”

Avula said the pandemic helped to increase awareness of issues that disproportionately affect Black and brown Richmonders and encouraged people to continue to advocate, even after the pandemic subsidies.

“We’ve invested so many resources, as a city, as a region, as a state, to protect as many people as possible during this pandemic,” he said. “One of the ways we can honor those we’ve lost is to keep the focus on those policies, that conversation, those investments.”

Avula added, Richmonders should also honor those who died from the virus by doing everything in their power to end the pandemic, “Wearing our masks, staying home if we're sick, and then choosing to be vaccinated in the coming weeks.”

At sunset on Friday, Richmond City Hall will be illuminated in “Heartbeat Red.” It will remain illuminated throughout the weekend. 

Over the course of the pandemic, 224 Richmonders, 9,961 Virginians, 529,301 Americans and 2,624,677 people worldwide have died from the coronavirus.

Connor Scribner is the assistant news editor at VPM News and also reports on the housing market and public housing.