On Tuesday, Richmond leaders came together to honor those who lost their lives to COVID-19 at a memorial service. In the 2021 Regular Session of the Virginia General Assembly, Del. Delores McQuinn (D-Charles City) introduced a bill that was passed by both chambers. This bill, HJ 605, designates March 14 as “Victims of COVID-19 Remembrance Day” upon becoming law. The bill was introduced to honor the thousands of Virginians whose lives were drastically impacted by the pandemic, with more than 24,000 deaths recorded in the state. The memorial program took place at Virginia Union University’s campus, near the Bell Tower, with several local leaders, including McQuinn, speaking during the event. McQuinn emphasized that COVID-19 still poses a threat and the community must continue to remember and honor those who lost their lives to the virus.
To add to that, anyone following the daily Good Morning RVA newsletters will know that since the onset of the pandemic, it has been providing its readers with almost daily updates on the impact that Covid-19 has had in the state. Recently, they mentioned that March 9th, 2020 marked the first time it had included anything about the virus and its impact in Virginia. We decided to delve into the Good Morning RVA archive and compile the entries from March 2020 to jog our collective memory on how the pandemic unfolded in Virginia over a few weeks as told by a local reporter dealing with a global crisis in real time. What had started as a few isolated cases quickly spiraled out of control, and before we knew it, the entire state was in the grip of the pandemic.
MARCH 9TH, 2020
2 POSITIVE COVID-19 CASES IN VIRGINIA
The Virginia Department of Health is reporting two cases of coronavirus in the Commonwealth, both in Northern Virginia. You’re washing your hands, right? You should definitely wash your hands.
MARCH 10TH, 2020
5 POSITIVE COVID-19 CASES IN VIRGINIA
The Virginia Department of Health announced that the Commonwealth now has five positive cases of the coronavirus—including one in Spotsyvlania. VDH recommends, first and foremost, that you wash your hands with soap and water and avoid coughing directly into other people’s faces. If you’re sick, stay home, and “avoid non-essential travel.” This is an extremely rapidly changing situation—going viral is named after actual viruses for a reason. Keep your information up-to-date and solidly sourced (like, from the CDC or VDH).
MARCH 11TH, 2020
8 POSITIVE COVID-19 CASES IN VIRGINIA
I guess, for the foreseeable future, these emails will lead off with a coronavirus update—something I’d trade away in a second to go back to continually talking about the Mayor’s proposed downtown arena. As of this moment the Virginia Department of Health reports eight presumptive positive cases of coronavirus in the Commonwealth, with none in Central Virginia. Today, let’s look at how the region’s educational institutions are responding to this rapidly evolving situation. While some schools and universities across the country have begun to shut down or started to plan on moving instruction entirely online, Richmond-area institutions are (at this point) taking a more cautious approach. While class goes on at VCU, I got an email last night saying that I should start thinking about how to teach my class remotely and pointing me to this page of resources to do just that. UR will share their coronavirus plans by the end of the week, and VUU has asked anyone traveling during spring break to let them know. Chesterfield has the best and most up-to-date information out of the region’s public schools and have cancelled all field trips outside of Virginia. If I were running comms at a school or university, I’d be posting daily updates—even if nothing had changed. The thing about a viral outbreak is that it spreads virally, and up-to-date information is incredibly valuable.
MARCH 12TH, 2020
9 POSITIVE COVID-19 CASES IN VIRGINIA
According to the Virginia Department of Health, there are nine presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth.
Today’s coronavirus update is vastly different than yesterday’s, which just goes to show how quickly things can change. VCU and UR have both suspended class next week, through March 20th. When instruction resumes on the 23rd, VCU says “classes will be taught remotely for the foreseeable future” while UR says “faculty will prepare for the transition to remote instruction beginning March 23. Our community should be prepared for an extended period of distance learning.” Staff for both universities are expected to just come in and work like normal though, and that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
At the local public school level, Superintendent Kamras cancelled “all school-sponsored and division-sponsored travel outside of the Richmond area for both students and staff.” He’ll also ask the School Board to reallocate $500,000 towards “supplies and services dedicated to preparing for and responding to COVID-19.” While school will carry on as normal, for now, he does say that “out of an abundance of caution we are already developing virtual learning guidance and examining different ways of supporting families who rely on the school meals program due to food insecurity.“ Henrico County Public Schools has a similar update. Meanwhile, beginning today, Seattle Public Schools have closed for a minimum of 14 calendar days.
The Atlantic 10 men’s basketball tournament, in which VCU plays at 12:00 PM today and UR tomorrow at 6:00 PM, will continue but without fans. In fact, the entirety of March Madness will “be played with only essential staff and limited family attendance,” and the NBA just suspended the rest of their season.
Sean Gorman and John Reid Blackwell at the Richmond Times-Dispatch talked to some of the region’s major employers about their Work From Home plans. And I imagine we’ll hear from the City—which has been pretty quite on the coronavirus front—today or tomorrow. I’ll tell you what, I’ve got immediate questions about Shamrock the Block and whatever other St. Patrick’s Day celebrations folks have planned.
A lot has changed in the last 24 hours! As for me, I am still not a doctor, epidemiologist, or public health expert, but I am going to continue to socially distance the heck out of myself from as many meetings as possible. In my opinion, this is civic duty stuff! I will do my part to avoid being a disease vector and avoid putting high-risk folks in danger.
MARCH 13TH, 2020
17 POSITIVE COVID-19 CASES IN VIRGINIA
The Virginia Department of Health is reporting 17 presumptive positive cases of coronavirus in the Commonwealth. The VDH reporting page has upgraded to now include a map and reports by locality, which is very helpful.
What a difference a day can make. Yesterday it felt like Richmond and Richmonders definitively decided to take the coronavirus seriously and start disrupting their lives and routines to #flattenthecurve. Now that we’re all in this together, I want three things out of our State, City, and institutions: 1) High-quality and up-to-date information, 2) Whatever the institutional version of social distancing is, and 3) Clever policy and action to keep folks safe and thriving until this crisis passes. All things considered, I think we’re seeing a bit of all three from across the region.
First, the Governor kicked things off and declared a state of emergency, that, in addition to marking the seriousness of the situation, unlocks specific new powers and abilities. The Gov’s announcement also included this totally deserved shade thrown at the Trump administration: “In addition, it has become increasingly clear that states must take a primary leadership role in the national response to COVID-19.” And while the Mayor hasn’t yet declared a local state of emergency—I’m not sure that’s even a thing—the City has committed to keeping people informed by launching a new page dedicated to coronavirus updates.
On the social distancing front, Richmond and Henrico public schools announced that, starting Monday, school will be closed for at least two weeks. You should read Superintendent Kamras’s letter to the RPS community. I’m deeply appreciative for how he communicates, I mean: “Finally, a word to our extraordinary students: I know this is a scary time. Please know that we are going to do everything possible to support you and that we love you.” Both districts will work on plans to make sure that students who rely on school for meals will still have access to food, and, at least in Richmond, “ALL RPS staff – teachers, counselors, custodians, bus drivers, everyone – will continue to receive their normal pay during the closure.” The Mayor has recommended that “organizers of large events postpone or cancel those events within the city limits.” That sent a ton of classic Richmond events into cancellation or suspension—your inbox is probably full of very stoic emails. An incomplete list of the noteworthy events now on ice includes: The Monument Avenue 10k, the Atlantic 10 Tournament and all of March Madness, the Flying Squirrels and all of the 2020 Minor League Baseball season, the Richmond Kickers and all of the USL League One 2020 season, and, of course, Shamrock the Block. Richmond City Council has even cancelled public meetings through March 22nd, which, to be honest, has me a little concerned. Council will begin their budget deliberations on March 23rd (theoretically), and are required by state law to pass a budget by the end of May. I’m not sure what happens if they decide to cancel the budget public hearing. Are they even allowed to do that?
As for clever policy, the Department of Public Utilities has “suspended all disconnections of water and wastewater service for non-payment,” so folks who may have their income disrupted will still have access to, you know, water. Hydration is one of my top concerns, so I’m thankful for this—additionally, you need water to wash your hands. Now I’d like to see evictions suspended, too. I know RRHA has the authority to pause evictions in public housing neighborhoods, which they have done and should continue doing. But who can put a temporary stop to all evictions? Is that the police? The courts? The mayor? City Council, who has decided not to have anymore meetings during an emergency which kind of impacts their ability to pass emergency legislation? Also, we’ll want to keep an eye on how the heck all of these school-age kids are supposed to keep learning—especially if the school cancellations continue. The Superintendent said teachers will send home work packets today and that the division will create more resources this coming Monday. Finally, I’ve got some concerns about VCU’s student housing which basically shuts down on March 16th. Lots of people go to college specifically to get away from home. Students! If you’re reading this and you need to stay in student housing because your home is unsafe for whatever reason, you have until March 16th to apply for approval to remain on campus! I hope that VCU will be compassionate with their approvals.
I’m sure there’s other, non-corona news out there, but, today, you’ll just have to find it yourself!
MARCH 16TH, 2020
45 POSITIVE COVID-19 CASES IN VIRGINIA, 1 PERSON DEAD
As of this morning, the Virginia Department of Health reports 45 positive cases of the coronavirus in the Commonwealth. One person in Virginia has died as a result of the virus.
On Friday, Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield, Hanover, and Goochland all declared local states of emergency. I don’t know why I couldn’t find it in the code last week, but § 44-146.21 defines a local emergency and what new powers the localities can wield once it’s been declared. One of the more interesting bits for me (especially as budget season and its public hearings rapidly approach) is the power to “proceed without regard to time-consuming procedures and formalities prescribed by law (except mandatory constitutional requirements) pertaining to the performance of public work.” That gets my brain churning on how the City could quickly roll out some good public policy. I’ll be looking for how the Mayor uses this and the other defined powers in the coming weeks and months—there’s a lot of flexibility to do some real good in there, I think. Along with the State of Emergency, the aforementioned localities will all close their offices today for “planning and to begin additional cleaning in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.” Almost every public service is delayed, has had their schedule adjusted, or is outright closed—including the Richmond Public Library. You shouldn’t be going anywhere if you don’t have to, but, if must leave the house, make sure you check a website before you do.
As per forever and always, the Richmond Public Schools superintendent is dominating communications in This Most Unusual Time. Since early Friday morning, he’s sent out three emails. The first focused on information for RPS employees. The second included an evolving FAQ and an important reminder that many RPS schools will open as food distributions sites Monday through Friday, from 9:30 AM–12:30 PM. If you’d like to volunteer at these food distribution sites, you can fill out this form. I definitely have a hard time balancing the real need for folks to get food into the hands of kids with the equally real need for folks to stay home if they can. Please use an abundance of caution and commonsense before deciding you should volunteer! Luckily, if all of that sounds way too stressful but you’d still like to help out, Kamras’s third email will point you to donating to the Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation—which you can do while sitting on your couch.
I don’t know what to make of this letter from VCU President Rao alerting folks that “a person who attended a program at VCU’s Larrick Center on March 5 and 6 recently tested positive for the novel coronavirus COVID-19.” Reading this several times, I don’t think this is a new case, but that one of the existing, known positive cases was on campus early March. Totally not sure, though. Anyway, via /r/rva, here’s a slightly spooky video of an eerily empty campus that’s normally packed this time of year.
Joining the Department of Public Utilities, Dominion Energy has suspended all service disconnections for nonpayment. Neither here nor there, the last week has convinced me that we should look into municipal broadband.
MARCH 17TH, 2020
51 POSITIVE COVID-19 CASES IN VIRGINIA, 2 PERSONS DEAD
As of this morning, the Virginia Department of Health reports 51 positive cases of the coronavirus in the Commonwealth. Two people in Virginia have died as a result of the virus.
Justin Mattingly and Bridget Balch at the Richmond Times-Dispatch have an update and more details on all the local coronavirus cases of which they’re aware. Mattingly and Balch point out that their numbers differ from the official Virginia Department of Health numbers—or at least it’s unclear if the VDH totals include some of the newer regional cases. As I said a couple days ago—400 years back in virus time—high-quality information is critical during a crisis. At least in my view, the VDH coronavirus page should be the most authoritative and up-to-date source of all coronavirus info in the Commonwealth. That probably means bringing a person from the web team to all of the meetings and empowering them to make near-real-time updates to the website. I know VDH is ultra busy dealing with an actual, literal crisis, but clear communication is so super important at this moment in time.
The City of Richmond have shut their offices down for the rest of the week. The Mayor also issued new guidance for restaurants: Eliminate bar seating, move tables at least six feet apart, and limit on-site service to 50% of their normal capacity. We’ve seen other places, entire neighboring states even, shut down bars and restaurants to everything but takeout service. I think that’s the direction the Mayor should have gone, but, I get it, it’s such a tough call to make. Not only will many restaurants go out of business over the next couple of months, regardless of this new guidance from the Mayor, but folks who depend on restaurant jobs face an extremely uncertain future. Also, remember that City is funding new school construction with meals tax revenue—a revenue source that’s about to take a nosedive. I appreciate the Mayor making these tough calls, though. On a lot of fronts, he’s taking the lead in Virginia and other localities are following along.
Speaking of restaurant closures, Richard Hayes at RVAHub has the ultimate list of things that are now closed in Richmond due to the coronavirus. At this point in time over 70 restaurants have decided to close, move to takeout only, or actually factually close forever. It takes a lot of work to maintain a list like that, so good on him.
Richmond Public Schools announced yesterday that they’re closing schools through Spring Break, which means “we will be closed, at a minimum, until Monday, April 13.” Emphasis, the Superintendent’s. OK! Dang, that’s a lot of days! But, as my son says, let’s gooooo! The previous link has some updated information about food distribution centers, too, and a video of the Superintendent reading the first few chapters of Wishtree if you’re looking for a Language Arts exercise.
GRTC’s new CEO, Julie Timm, shared this good and common sense advice on Twitter: “Transit is an essential service to most of our riders. Please don’t ride if you can stay home. GRTC will stay open as long as we can keep our operators healthy. Service reductions and other measures are likely coming very soon to minimize contact points. Stay safe, stay home.” I appreciate Timm’s honesty here about service reductions, which, like restaurant closures, will destabilize a lot of folks’ lives.
However, in transit good news, the new #111 bus in Chesterfield opened for service yesterday. Sabrina Moreno at the RTD rode along with some of the advocates who’ve been working to bring bus service to the Route 1 corridor for years. It’s still hard for me to believe/comprehend that there’s now decent, new bus service in Chesterfield County. What a time to be alive—in so many ways!
City parks remain open! Although, maybe don’t touch any of the playground equipment. For me personally, and probably you, access to open green space does a lot positive good for my state of mind. That said, I’m nervous about where to draw the line between a safe, socially-distant park visit and something that puts other folks in danger. Use your commonsense, double down on empathy, and do your part to flatten the curve.
Quartz says that Universal Pictures will begin to release current theatrical movies online as soon as Friday. Toll the bells, because I can’t help but think this marks a dramatic and permanent shift in how movies work. I can easily see a post-coronavirus world where we just don’t go to movie theatres anymore. Box Office Mojo looked at the impact of the virus on the global box office, and found that this past week, the 11th week of the year, saw the top ten movies combine for the lowest Week 11 revenue total since 1995. Yikes. Bow Tie Cinemas temporarily closed all of their locations yesterday with no set date to reopen.
MARCH 18TH, 2020
67 POSITIVE COVID-19 CASES IN VIRGINIA, 2 PERSONS DEAD
As of this morning, the Virginia Department of Health reports 67 positive cases of the coronavirus in the Commonwealth, and two people in Virginia have died as a result of the virus. The number of folks tested more than doubled yesterday, from 489 to 1,028. You should expect the number of positive cases to increase as the number of tests increases—this make logical sense but feels scary to watch the numbers tick up rapidly. I don’t know what it means other than “it’s where the people are,” but the current spread of the coronvirus in Virginia is pretty much along the I-95/I-64 corridor.
Yesterday, the Governor issued an Executive Order restricting “the number of patrons allowed in permitted [restaurants, fitness centers, and theatres] to 10 patrons or less.” The restriction is not a suggestion and comes with a threat of revoking permits and charging violators with a set of misdemeanors. But how many restaurants are even still open at this point? A ton have shut down, according to RVAHub’s evergrowing list of corona-closures. /r/rva has the details on how Gold’s Gym in the Fan will handle the new restrictions: “We will be open on a first-come-first-served basis, allowing 10 patrons in the gym at one time. Each member will be allowed 30 minutes to work out.” The Governor also suggested folks limit their own gatherings to less than 10 people (excluding “essential services such as manufacturers, distribution centers, airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, grocery stores, or pharmacies“) and that folks with chronic health conditions or aged 65 or older should self-quarantine. He also lifted some of the restrictions and timelines associated with unemployment benefits and closed all of the DMVs. You can read some more of the details in this press release. At some point, you’d think, the General Assembly will have to convene a special, socially-distanced session to start unlocking cash to keep social programs, small businesses, and critical local services operating.
RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras has started pointing towards how the federal government can help public schools moving forward: 1. A bailout package for money being spent on non-reimbursable (but essential) food for kids, and 2. A policy package to waive testing and other requirements that are impossible to comply with right now. Luckily, the State’s Department of Education will “seek maximum flexibility for schools and students to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 (DOCX), including relief from federal and state requirements related to testing.” It’s wild thinking about how this cohort of students, across all grade levels, will just have an asterisk next to them whenever they show up in future datasets.
Looking for a way to connect while wearing your pajamas and staying isolated in your living room? Local all-everything-man Prabir will host some of his musical friends for a virtual house show today at 3:30 PM (Facebook) over on Grid’s Instagram page. I think this kind of thing is rad, and, after we get over some of initial awkwardness, will be pretty important to keeping everyone’s spirits up over the next couple of weeks.
Finally, the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts have set up a Coronavirus Hotline (804.205.3501) that you can call to get answers to your public health questions, every day, from 8:00 AM–8:00 PM.
March 19th, 2020
77 POSITIVE COVID-19 CASES IN VIRGINIA, 2 PERSONS DEAD
As of this morning, the Virginia Department of Health reports 77 positive cases of the coronavirus in the Commonwealth, and two people in Virginia have died as a result of the virus. For the first time, VDH reports three cases in Richmond, bringing the number of cases reported in The Big Three Localities (Richmond, Henrico, and Chesterfield) to 10. The City—which reports four positive cases of coronavirus, highlighting, once again, the need for high-quality information—says all of the infected folks are at home in isolation and none of them have required hospitalization. The map of positive cases on the VDH site now perfectly highlights Virginia’s Urban Crescent.
I guess I had just assumed that once the local universities announced they’d move to remote instruction following Spring Break, that that would be The Way of Things for the rest of the semester. That’s now official as VCU has announced remote classes for the remainder of the semester and canceled commencement. Here’s a similar announcement from UR. Also, Henrico and Chesterfield school districts have joined Richmond in closing schools until the middle of April.
Scrolling through the calendar of Richmond’s public meetings this morning, as one does, I noticed that City Council has canceled the first three of their planned budget work sessions. The City is required by State law to pass a budget no later than May 31st, and they’ve just canned all public meetings until at least after April 6th. Stressful! That’s not a whole lot of time for folks to weigh in. C. Suarez Rojas at the Richmond Times-Dispatch looks into how a pandemic-induced state of emergency sits in tension with public meeting laws. I hope Council will use this extra time to think through some really clever ways to get folks involved remotely that aren’t just lazily defaulting to “Facebook Live.” Our public meetings should not be restricted to walled-off, privately-owned platforms!
Yesterday, I speculated that GRTC might could move to free fares and back-door boarding in the near future, and, effective today, March 19th, they’ve done just that. This decision will help protect operators from close contact with riders and help limit the spread of the coronavirus. GRTC has also dumped a few more Pulse buses onto that route, meaning more frequency and, with any luck, fewer people on each bus. Not to always be Budget Guy, especially considering we don’t even know when the first budget session will take place, but City Council should think long and hard about cutting any local funding for GRTC from this upcoming budget. During this crisis, ridership will drop and fare revenue will decrease, but the City should not addresses this by cutting something as absolutely critical as bus service. Potholes can wait. Council and GRTC should also follow New York City’s lead and start publicly asking state and federal legislators to prepare to bail out the transit system once this present moment passes.
I can’t remember if I mentioned it here or not, but the Supreme Court of VIrginia issued a judicial emergency (PDF) effective March 16th–April 6th. This includes, among other things, a prohibition on new eviction cases. Armed with that knowledge, check out this strong work yesterday by 9th District Councilmember Mike Jones, from his Twitter: “Crisis averted @ Southwood Apts. 40 residents rec eviction notices. I gave the manager a call to see if they were aware that the courts were not evicting residents. She just rec a call from their attorney saying they couldn’t evict. I asked her to please notify the residents. 🙏🏾” We need clever policies to allow people to socially distance themselves, but we also need leaders willing to do the work to enforce those policies. I’m very thankful for Councilmember Jones this morning.
Yesterday, Baltimore’s State Attorney asked the governor to use his clemency powers to release folks in jail over the age of 60, with an immunodeficiency-related illness, who’ve been approved by the parole board, or who are due to complete their sentence in the next year. Ali Rockett and Frank Green at the RTD say the ACLU of Virginia is leading the charge to protect people who have been incarcerated locally from the coronavirus. They’ve already started to push the Richmond Magistrate’s Office and Police Department to “allow the release of individuals awaiting trail who are charged with nonviolent felonies and do not pose a risk to the community.”
MARCH 20TH, 2020
94 POSITIVE COVID-19 CASES IN VIRGINIA, 2 PERSONS DEAD
As of this morning, the Virginia Department of Health reports 94 positive cases of the coronavirus in the Commonwealth, and two people in Virginia have died as a result of the virus. VDH reports 12 cases in and around Richmond (Chesterfield: 6, Henrico: 3, and Richmond: 3). Almost 2,000 folks have received the test, up from just 408 at the beginning fo this week. Here’s a quick and not-very-helpful graph of reported positive cases each morning since March 14th. Remember: Until we’re testing everyone, this graph will always be extremely influenced by the number of tests available.
I really enjoyed reading this strong open letter to our state and federal legislators from Phillip Ray, co-founder of Center of the Universe Brewing Company up in Ashland. Since the pandemic started impacting folks’ day-to-day, COTU has seen a 70% drop in revenue, which is terrifying. I wonder if one of the longer-term impacts of the coronavirus on American culture will be more folks getting more politically involved.
I just got the updated City Council budget schedule, after I notice they’d canceled the planned budget sessions up through the beginning of April. Bad news budget fans: Those sessions weren’t rescheduled at all. Council now plans on holding just two budget work sessions (April 13th and 20th), three amendment work sessions, and two public hearings. First of all, who even knows what the world looks like on April 13th—that’s 24 days from now, or approximately 32 years in virustime. Second of all, how do we public hearing when the Governor has recommended against gatherings of 10 or more? I know folks have way more important things to deal with at this moment than participating in the City budget process, but, once adopted, this will pretty much be our budget for an entire year.
Related, I also got this update from City Council: “Richmond City Council is providing residents the opportunity to email any public comments they may have regarding pending legislative items scheduled for its upcoming Formal Meeting to <email@example.com data-preserve-html-node=”true”>by 12:00 PM on Monday, March 23, 2020.” You’ll need to include your full name, and your comments will be published with the Council meeting minutes—it is a publiccomment after all. You can read through the agenda, as it stands at this moment in time, here (PDF). It’s a supremely light agenda as all of the committees that need to weigh in on legislation have also had their meetings cancelled. I dunno, y’all, weird times. As seen in the last two paragraphs, I keep thinking about how folks can stay civically involved while stuck at home and incredibly distracted. My current take—and I’d love to hear your opinions—is that City Councilmembers need to reach out to people and organizations already in their networks directly to collect thoughts, feelings, and emotions on pending legislation. It’s a lot of work, but just Facebooking or emailblasting about a thing isn’t going to get useful results. </firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Governor continues to take what action he can to help folks impacted by the coronavirus. Yesterday he announced some good changes to how Medicaid covers COVID-19 testing and treatment and the availability of low-interest, small business loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration. If you own a small business, these loans are available to even cover things like payroll.
Mark Robinson at the Richmond Times-Dispatch has the final(?) update on the folks living in tents off Oliver Hill Way. As of yesterday, 80 people living there had either “accepted a two-week hotel stay or emergency shelter placement,” and the City has removed the camp. Kelly King Horne, Executive Director of Homeward, says that they’ll now shift their focus to “connecting people to stable housing and services.” You can read the City’s release here.
MARCH 23RD, 2020
219 POSITIVE COVID-19 CASES IN VIRGINIA, 3 PERSONS DEAD
As of this morning, the Virginia Department of Health reports 219 positive cases of the coronavirus in the Commonwealth, and three people in Virginia have died as a result of the virus. VDH reports 22 cases in and around Richmond (Chesterfield: 8, Henrico: 8, and Richmond: 6). You can now start to see the spread of the virus well beyond the urban crescent and into the rest of Virginia. For what it’s worth, in his briefing on Sunday, the Governor said six people have died from the virus in Virginia. More on that below.
Not entirely unexpected, but the City will keep their offices closed until at least the end of the month—this ever-updating list of critical services will, however, remain open. But! Pair that closure, with this new service: On Friday, the Mayor announced that, through a partnership with the YMCA and the Community Foundation, the City will “provide emergency childcare to elementary and middle school-aged children of essential medical personnel in Richmond.” We’ve got a need for medical professionals and, with school shut down for the foreseeable future, they’ve got a need for childcare. This sounds like a great way to meet that need.
According to the legislative calendar, City Council will still meet today at 6:00 PM for whatever remains of their regularly scheduled meeting. You can take a look at the agenda as it stands here (PDF), and with Council’s informal meeting canceled, perhaps this is tonight’s actual agenda. Every paper has been continued, except ORD. 2020-091 (reallocating money to the affordable housing trust fund) and ORD. 2020-092 (extending the deadline for filing for tax exemptions). As we continue to live in This Most Unusual Time, it’s worth reading this opinion from Attorney General Mark Herring about how public bodies can continue to meet during shutdowns, lockdowns, and bans on gatherings of more than 10 folks (PDF). There’s a clear tension between Virginia’s freedom of information laws and the need for social distancing and isolation during a pandemic. I am obviously not a lawyer, but, reading through Herring’s opinion, it seems like City Council will be pretty limited in what business it can conduct until either the General Assembly passes some new state laws or we’re on the other side of this crisis. At the moment, “can’t they just have a Zoom” is not an option. Mark Robinson at the Richmond Times-Dispatch says five councilmembers will meet in person, as required by law, and four will call in(something that they can only do twice per year). This is clearly something the GA will have to address, right?? Localities can’t just not have their legislative bodies meeting during a literal state of emergency!
Over on the schools front, starting today, RPS will expand their meal delivery program by using school buses to drop off food at 34 locations around the city. “Each bus will have volunteers to help hand out the grab-and-go meals, including Spanish-speaking staff for our Southside routes.” They’re also updating their meal distribution sites to focus on the new bus-delivery program. If you want to help out and you’ve thought long and hard about it, you can volunteer by filling out this form.
At his press conference on Sunday, which you can read about over at the RTD, Governor Northam said folks should expect the coronavirus crisis to “stretch out for several months.” There are lots of Northam quotes in this piece about the need to social distance and take seriously the recommendations to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. There are, however, no quotes about further restrictions from the Governor—which, honestly, seems wild to me. If you want to see how restrictions and control measures can impact the spread of the coronavirus, the New York Times has a good dataviz piece about when peak-virus hits each county in America under three different scenarios. Anyway, the RTD says, ominously, that “Northam said he would announce Monday an update on school closures at a daily press conference that will be moved to 2 p.m. going forward.” I guess we’ll learn more about schools this afternoon and see if the Governor is willing to implement stronger controls to help slow the spread of the virus.
A couple days ago the Bird app went dark, and I thinkthey’ve pulled their scooters from Richmond’s streets. I haven’t left the Northside in a while, so I’m not 100% sure. The Verge says both Lime and Bird have started to pause service as a result of the coronavirus.
Here’s an excellent TikTok combining social distancing, VCU men’s soccer, and toilet paper. Yes it’s a link to a tweet about a TikTok. As an official Old, it’s the best I can do.
Classic Richmond emergency supplies: Milk, bread, and now toilet paper—but also liquor. Bob Lewis at the Virginia Mercury says folks are stocking up on booze as part of their shelter-in-place supplies. The piece ends with this excellent quote, “‘You can never be too careful,’ she said as she walked toward her car with a bulging bag of liquor bottles. ‘Besides, I have a college kid who’s over 21 and who’s now back home, so I’ve got to stock up.'”
MARCH 24TH, 2020
254 POSITIVE COVID-19 CASES IN VIRGINIA, 6 PERSONS DEAD
As of this morning, the Virginia Department of Health reports 254 positive cases of the coronavirus in the Commonwealth, and six people in Virginia have died as a result of the virus. VDH reports 28 cases in and around Richmond (Chesterfield: 9, Henrico: 11, and Richmond: 8).
Yesterday the Governor closed schools through the end of the academic year and levied new restrictions on businesses. Ned Oliver at the Virginia Mercury has the details and you can read the Governor’s press release and Executive Order here. I’ll get to schools in a bit, but now there’s a whole list of businesses considered non-essential that must close by tomorrow, including: Theatres, museums, gyms, salons, barber shops, tattoo shops, bowling alleys, arcades, zoos, and escape rooms. Restaurants, however, may remain open but only to offer delivery and/or takeout. Conversely, now there’s a whole list of businesses that are considered essential and may remain open, including: Grocery stores, dollar stores, labs, cell phone retailers, automotive repair facilities, home improvement stores, liquor stores, gas stations, banks, office supply stores, and laundromats. If your store isn’t on the list you’ve got to “limit all in-person shopping to no more than 10 patrons per establishment, adhere to social distancing recommendations, sanitize common surfaces, and apply relevant workplace guidance from state and federal authorities.” I think this allows bike shops, another essential retail business, to stay open. The Governor also upped his recommendation against gatherings of more than 10 people to an official ban, beginning tomorrow. Then, at 7:30 PM last night, the Chief Executives of Virginia, D.C., and Maryland (of which the governor is one) issued a joint statement asking the federal government to provide additional support to the region because the region is home to the…federal government. Perhaps this was in response to Trump’s bananas comments that run counter to his own public health officials about ending social distancing and restarting the country’s economy in a couple of weeks.
You should read RPS Superintendent Kamras’s response to the Governor closing schools for the rest of the school year. To quote a bit, “These are truly unprecedented times. While every family is facing new challenges, I am most concerned about those within our community who already struggle with the injustices that come with poverty, institutionalized racism, and/or immigration status. This extended closure will only amplify these injustices. At RPS, we will move heaven and earth to support these – and all – families in our community. And we will make sure our employees continue to get paid, have full benefits, and receive the support they need to navigate these very difficult times. I want to reiterate what I said to our students in my first closure message: RPS may be officially closed, but we are always open to support you in any way we can. If you need anything at all – anything – please email me at <email@example.com data-preserve-html-node=”true”>. We are here for your and we love you.” In the aforelinked Virginia Mercury piece, Ned Oliver has some details on what the heck this means for students moving forward, and the Superintendent says the Virginia Department of Education will provide some guidance today. Stay tuned.</firstname.lastname@example.org>
Yesterday afternoon, the City announced that they’ve had an employee test positive for COVID-19. This pushed City Council to cancel their regularly scheduled meeting, saying “In taking a leadership role on behalf of Richmond residents and with the upmost caution and responsibility with regard to the Governor’s statewide ban on gatherings of more than 10 persons and today’s announcement by the Mayor of a city employee testing positive for COVID-19, Richmond City Council has canceled its Formal Meeting scheduled for tonight. This meeting will not take place and proposed legislation on the docket will be rescheduled for a future date.” As I said yesterday, I’m interested in (and now starting to get nervous about) how local governments can continue to meet and pass important legislation during This Most Unusual Time. Council even had a plan in place to adhere to the 10-person gathering ban and social distancing requirements! But still they canceled! Unfortunately, now I’m not sure how the legislation (ORD. 2020-092) to extend the deadlines (originally March 31st) for tax exemptions gets passed. Maybe they’ll revisit their plan of attack and call a special meeting next week?
Martin Wegbreit from Central Virginia Legal Aid Society has a column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch about how the Virginia Supreme Court decree around stopping evictions hasn’t yet had the intended effect. At least in Richmond, as of yesterday, it sounds like courts are starting to get the message. How are folks supposed to #stayhome if they’re getting kicked out of their homes!
Let me quote this tweet from Matthew Yglesias in full: “So that people can have places to go outside while maintaining distance, cities should look at opportunists to close streets to vehicle traffic so there’s more space for joggers, random walks, and kids running in circles to blow off steam.” Local transportation expert Mariia Zimmerman suggests Monument Avenue—both in the City and County—and I agree.
@RTDBrainTrust has put together their now-annual RVA Journalist Tournament, and the Round of 64 is now open for voting: First side of the bracket here, second side of the bracket here. There are some really fascinating matchups, but the marquee head-to-head in this first round has to be the RTD’s Mark Robinson vs. Michael Paul Williams. Absolutely brutal. We’ve got no more sports, so let this totally-for-fun, good-natured thing temporarily fill the sports-shaped hole in your life.
MARCH 25TH, 2020
290 POSITIVE COVID-19 CASES IN VIRGINIA, 7 PERSONS DEAD
As of this morning, the Virginia Department of Health reports 290 positive cases of the coronavirus in the Commonwealth, and seven people in Virginia have died as a result of the virus. VDH reports 35 cases in and around Richmond (Chesterfield: 10, Henrico: 14, and Richmond: 11).
Alright! RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras got some guidance from the Virginia Department of Education (which you can read for yourself right here (PDF)) about how to handle students, graduations, and curriculum in This Most Unusual Time. Since it’s from the State, this applies across the Commonwealth, but there is some flexibility in the guidance. Your mileage may vary with how different school districts decide to go about implementation. The gist: high school seniors will receive their diplomas, GPAs are kind of a question mark, and students will not be held back. That last one though comes with some caveats. Here’s Kamras again, “That said, we will need to provide a plan for how students will learn the content they would have otherwise been exposed to this spring. That could take the form of online learning and/or physical packets now, additional instructional time this summer, a longer 2020-21 school year, and/or other measures.” Sounds like those of us trying to quickly figure out homeschooling will have even more to learn over the next couple months. If you’ve got questions—in general or about your specific situation—you can submit them to RPS here.
Mayor Stoney wants you to know that no gatherings of 10 people means no Spring Breaking at the river! C. Suarez Rojas at the Richmond Times-Dispatch has this great quote from the Mayor: “If folks are at Texas Beach with a bunch of PBRs, then obviously we’re going to provide some guidance that they should disperse.” Did you hear him? Disperse! Don’t make him close the parks, y’all! He’ll do it, he’ll turn this park right around if you don’t chill, socially distance, and stay the heck home. P.S. Please never, ever bring glass bottles to the river. Thank you.
City Council diffused some of my anxiety about how they can continue to meet and pass legislation during this emergency while apparently not being allowed to meet—in person or otherwise. From my inbox: “In light of the current situational context, Richmond City Council is currently working to delineate processes and procedures for holding electronic public meetings, and will share the meeting schedule and method for public involvement once finalized.” OK! That seems like progress! Chesterfield, because they’re Chesterfield, has already figured out their processes and procedures and that includes streaming (and I assume archiving) meetings on YouTube. This is way better than relying on Facebook (but still not as good as the County owning the content on their own website). Also, one update specific to ORD. 2020-092 : Council is, at this point, committed to “adopting in mid-April an ordinance extending the filing deadline for applications and certifications for tax relief for the elderly and the permanently and totally disabled to mid-May.”
Henrico, because they are Henrico, has already started the process of updating (aka slashing) their proposed FY21 budget—the one that was just introduced weeks ago—in light of the coronavirus’s anticipated impact on the economy. Tom Lappas at the Henrico Citizen has the early news, including this sobering quote from the County’s budget director: “[The revised budget will be] more conservative than you’ve probably seen from Henrico County…This is going to be a year unlike any we have seen in the past.” They go on to say that the County will consider adjusting the budget every 90 days, which seems smart. At this point, no one knows what tax revenue will look like in June, and it seems super risky to put together a yearlong budget based on enormous, unknowable question marks. Heck, even tomorrow seems enormous and unknowable.
Looks like late last night—or, rather, early this morning—the federal government came to agreement on a $2 trillion stimulus package. Details are sketchy at the moment, but it does sound like a lot of folks will get $1,200 checks in the coming days. Congress looks to pass the legislation today, so I’m sure we’ll learn more about the specifics soon.
Some how I forgot to include this huge news from a couple days back: RRHA CEO Damon Duncan will resign after a “60 to 90-day transition.” Micheal Paul Williams at the RTD has some thoughts, including this bummer of a paragraph: “Friday, he pledged to stick around to help the agency and residents through the COVID-19 pandemic, but this virus does not respect deadlines or timelines. An inexperienced board will have to find a new leader during a global crisis…”
Beautiful RVA has offered to build raised garden beds—at no cost—for folks facing food insecurity during the coronavirus crisis. I know most of the folks reading this newsletter are not, at this moment, facing food insecurity, so please make sure that Beautiful RVA’s resources go where it’s needed most. In fact, if you’re especially stoked on this project and would like to help, go donate a couple of bucks so Beautiful RVA has the cash on hand to build as many raised beds as needed. It costs between $75-100 to build one bed, let that information guide your donation amount! If you’ve got your own raised beds but feel like you need some help getting more out of it, check out some of these resources put together by Beautiful RVA’s Duron Chavis.
NBC12’s Andrew Freiden has a neat thread on Twitter about the green screen he’s got in his garage?? Despite social distancing and lockdowns, the weather must go on! Love it.
Waffle House has closed 365 restaurants. When Waffle House starts closing, you know things are serious.
MARCH 26TH, 2020
391 POSITIVE COVID-19 CASES IN VIRGINIA, 9 PERSONS DEAD
2 TRILLION DOLLAR STIMULUS PASSES BOTH HOUSES
As of this morning, the Virginia Department of Health reports 391 positive cases of the coronavirus in the Commonwealth, and nine people in Virginia have died as a result of the virus. VDH reports 35 cases in and around Richmond (Chesterfield: 11, Henrico: 20, and Richmond: 13). This is the biggest single-day increase in reported positive cases so far, and it’s important to remember just that: These are folks that have been tested and have had those test results reported by VDH. “391” should not be taken as a direct measure of the amount of COVID-19 cases in Virginia! There are, most likely, many, many people who are not in high-risk groups and weren’t tested or simply never developed major symptoms (an especially sneaky part of this particular virus that aids in transmission). When looking at these numbers each day, please keep in mind that both reported positive cases and deaths are only indirect measure of the extend of the virus in Virginia. For comparison: Georgia has 1,387 reported cases and 47 deaths, while Maryland has 423 reported cases and four deaths.
The Richmond Police Department has released their guidelines for dealing with folks violating the Governor’s new rules on social distancing. If you need a refresher on those rules, you can find it here, but, basically, no gatherings over 10 people and a bunch of non-essential businesses need to close as of last night. First: Even if you think you’re being helpful, do not call 911 if you see a business out of compliance or a gaggle of springbreakers at Texas Beach with their PBRs. Please use RPD’s non-emergency number instead (804.646.5100). To handle noncompliant businesses, springbreakers, or corona truthers, the RPD will first give a warning to the responsible parties, then issue a Class 1 misdemeanor, and then “contact supervision for assistance and proceed with criminal charges, if appropriate.” Maybe this is naive, but I’ll be surprised if anyone is actually charged with a misdemeanor for violating the Governor’s executive order.
I tried to find more info on this, but failed. RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras says the school district will use “a combination of reallocated money from our budget and RVA philanthropy” to buy 10,000 computers for students who need them? He says we’ll have more details soon, so I guess I’ll just have to wait!
Michael Martz at the Richmond Times-Dispatch has an update on a rehabilitation center in Henrico that accounts for three of Henrico’s 20 reported COVID-19 deaths. I think this piece is worth reading. While this is the most serious outbreak in our region that I’m aware of, the folks involved from the County, the Richmond/Henrico Health District, and the regional hospitals do sound like they’re taking the situation very seriously. The precautions and logistics and preparations described by Martz make me feel a bit of optimism—a strange and unfamiliar feeling!
Ali Rockett, also at the RTD, writes through the Governor’s press briefing yesterday (2:00 PM daily!), and says that state parks are closed at night and that Chesterfield will “begin removing the rims from basketball courts; nets from tennis, pickleball, and volleyball courts; and soccer and lacrosse goals throughout the county’s park system.” I rode my bike through Bryan Park the other day and all of the soccer fields were closed. This is serious business, people! Playing team sports is the opposite of social distancing!
Yo, this is messed up. From Roberto Roldan at VPM: “Three employees told VPM they were fired from Richmond bowling alley River City Roll because they declined to work a crowded event two weekends ago…The company asked employees to sign a liability waiver, which VPM obtained, to work the St. Patrick’s Day event. It said ‘I have been made aware of any and all health concerns in regards to Coronavirus (COVID-19). I understand my employer, River City Roll, is not to be held liable if I contract COVID-19.’ Some Employees who did not sign the waiver and didn’t show up to work were fired.”
The federal stimulus bill passed the Senate last night, and will head to the House for a vote on Friday at 9:00 AM. Here’s one of the better explainers I’ve found of what’s in the bill, from @yfreemark (with a transportation slant).
The Commonwealth Institute has put together a good post about some of the newly-created resources for folks impacted by the coronavirus. Unlike the federal stimulus check which should just show up in the mail (for most documented folks who are In The System, at least), a lot of these new or expanded programs require folks to sign up, apply, or take some sort of action. If you know anyone who could take advantage, please make sure they do! And maybe help them with the forms—via the telephone, of course.
MARCH 27TH, 2020
460 POSITIVE COVID-19 CASES IN VIRGINIA, 13 PERSONS DEAD
As of this morning, the Virginia Department of Health reports 460 positive cases of the coronavirus in the Commonwealth, and 13 people in Virginia have died as a result of the virus. VDH reports 35 cases in and around Richmond (Chesterfield: 12, Henrico: 21, and Richmond: 14). New on the aforelinked page are age, sex, and race information for reported positive cases. To dispel any sense you may have that this disease only impacts the elderly: About 45% of all reported positive cases are folks between the ages of 20 and 50. The Richmond Times-Dispatch has some more clarification on the accuracy of these reported numbers: “On March 19, state health officials said there’s a 19-hour lag in the reporting of statewide numbers, and figures on the website might not include cases reported by individual localities or local health districts. The Health Department did not explain Thursday precisely why there could be an eight-day lag between reported symptoms and test results. A shortage of tests and testing equipment have been reported across the country this month, and Virginia has turned to private labs to help provide test results.” So, please, don’t use these numbers as a direct indicator of the spread of coronavirus in Virginia. Don’t let them convince you that “it’s only 460 case.” But, please, do stay home if you can and help prevent further spread of the virus!
The Governor “directed all hospitals to stop performing elective surgeries or procedures to help conserve supplies of personal protective equipment.” That’s good and cool, I guess, but, like, when he is going to commit to a full stay-at-home order? Remember what Dr. Fauci says about our response to this pandemic: “…if it look like you’re overreacting, you’re probably doing the right thing.” Personally, at this moment in our viruscurve, I’d like to see more overreacting from the State before things get out of hand. Also, I think it’s time for an emergency session of the General Assembly. Localities need guidance and support—both through policy and through cash. As far as I know, the State’s budget is not yet finalized, and legislators could work through the changes they’ll need to make to give cities and counties across the Commonwealth the funding needed to maintain core services. A couple days ago, Del. Carroll Foy asked for an emergency session to raise the weekly unemployment cap. I wonder if Richmond’s legislators will ask/have asked for an emergency session? The City will have a ton of needs very, very soon, and I think I’d like to see some of that Fauci-style overreacting from our elected reps sooner rather than later.
The Virginia Employment Commission released unemployment claims for the week ending March 21st, and they are shocking. 46,277 claims were filed, up from…2,706…the previous week. Absolutely staggering. The two maps of claims, before and after coronavirus, are morbidly fascinating, and, once again, show that Virginia’s urban areas will need State support to get through this crisis.
In yesterday’s public briefing the City announced that time limits on parking will not be enforced. Go wild, Parking People!! However, Parking People, you must remain vigilant. There’s a ton of paving going on right now, and if you park in an obvious construction zone, your car will be disappeared. Non-parking People, take heart, because this newest round of paving should lead to both the Brook Road and Patterson/Malvern Ave bike lanes! I am excited to see them once we’re done sheltering in place.
RVA Hub says that the South of the James Market will take place this Saturday, March 28th, from 9:00 AM–1:00 PM. However, for everyone to maintain their safe social distance, customers must attend the market in a car and must pre-order with vendors. I know I’m #bancars guy, but we’ve got to figure out how to safely conduct events like this while making them accessible to people who don’t, won’t, or can’t own cars. It’s a complex problem that I don’t know how to solve, but restricting access to healthy food to car-owning folks isn’t the answer. This isn’t just about food access, either! I have the same sort of questions about pop-up drive-thru coronavirus testing.
Mallory Noe-Payne at RadioIQ has a piece about how home health workers from across the state have been impacted by the coronavirus. I often think of doctors and nurses in hospitals when I think about caregivers, but there are thousands of people providing critical in-home care to folks—and facing similar PPE shortages, lacking specific guidance from officials, and doing it all for far less pay.
MARCH 30TH, 2020
890 POSITIVE COVID-19 CASES IN VIRGINIA, 22 PERSONS DEAD
As of this morning, the Virginia Department of Health reports 890 positive cases of the coronavirus in the Commonwealth, and 22 people in Virginia have died as a result of the virus. That’s almost double both numbers from Friday morning (460 and 13 respectively). VDH reports 78 cases in and around Richmond (Chesterfield: 13, Henrico: 40, and Richmond: 25). Over 10,000 people have received the COVID-19 test.
Samuel Northrop at the Richmond Times-Dispatch as a brutal recap of the situation at the Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare facility which has eight deaths out of Henrico’s 40 COVID-19 cases. Health officials have introduced a number of measure to prevent the spread of the virus in and out of the facility, including showers and “bleach foot baths.”
Richmond 300, the City’s master planning process, continues despite the coronavirus’s best attempts to shut down reasons to read nerdy PDFs and take online planning surveys. Speaking of, you can and should still take the survey on Accessory Dwelling Units. Allowing ADUs almost everywhere would instantly double the density of the City and give a bunch more folks (theoretically) affordable places to live. Second, you should keep an eye out for the Coliseum Area Framework Plan, which, much like the Greater Scott’s Addition Framework Plan, will set up some guidelines for future development Downtown. Council requested this plan as part of their vote against the Mayor’s North of Broad redevelopment project, and now, with any luck, we’ll end up with a solid document guiding what folks want to see out of that neighborhood. Third, if you’ve got ideas for how the Richmond 300 folks can do community engagement in The Time of Coronavirus, please send them an email at <email@example.com data-preserve-html-node=”true”>and let them know.</firstname.lastname@example.org>
With school and graduation canceled, students are faced with two options: angrily listening to loud rock n’ roll in their rooms or building a virtual graduation ceremony in Minecraft. C. Suarez Rojas at the RTD, says a couple of folks from Midlothian and Cosby High Schools chose the latter, and we’re all better for it. During plague times, you take your stories of resilience where you can get them!
The City is paving a ton of streets at the moment—honestly, it’s a great time to do it since a lot of folks are staying at home and off the roads. Over on /r/rva they’ve got a neat picture of the old streetcar tracks on Main Street that’ve been exposed as workers have stripped off old layers of pavement. If you’re interested, here’s a circa 1900 map of all of Richmond’s old streetcar lines—including that one on Main Street. Hey, also, shoutout to DPW employees and contractors who are out there making our City a better place while most of us—this guy at least—shelters in place.
This article in the NYT about Liberty University’s reaction (or lack of reaction) to the coronavirus is wild and infuriating. Jerry Falwell Jr. refused to close the school after spring break, students returned, and now, as of Friday, “nearly a dozen Liberty students were sick with symptoms that suggested COVID-19.” Madness.
Trump changed his mind on reopening the country and needlessly killing a bunch of people, and instead extended the federal social distancing guidelines until at least the end of April. Sounds like Dr. Fauci got through to him!
I am not a medical professional, but I think the guidance on folks wearing DIY masks around town—not medical grade N95 masks—has started to shift. We definitely do not have a mask-wearing culture here in America, but that’s something I’d love to see change—and stay changed post-coronavirus. It’s important to note that wearing a crafty mask you made at home is more to keep your germs away from other people than keeping other people’s germs away from you. As they say in the Czech Republic: “My mask protects you; your mask protects me.”
MARCH 31ST, 2020
1020 POSITIVE COVID-19 CASES IN VIRGINIA, 25 PERSONS DEAD
As of this morning, the Virginia Department of Health reports 1,020 positive cases of the coronavirus in the Commonwealth, and 25 people in Virginia have died as a result of the virus. I’ve made graphs of the positive cases and deaths since March 14th, but please remember the number of tests given/available plays such an enormous role in all of this data.
Yesterday, the Governor updated his guidance on folks avoiding large gatherings and certain non-essential businesses by issuing a temporary stay-at-home order.pdf) until June 10th. You can still go get food, you can still go to the doctor, you can even still walk, roll, and ride bikes around your neighborhood—as long as you’re not with more than 10 folks and appropriately distanced from each other. In fact, if you’ve been following the Governor’s recommendations up to this point, honestly, not a lot has changed for you. Mel Leonor and Justin Mattingly at the Richmond Times-Dispatch go on to say, “Unlike the stay-at-home order Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued Monday, which can lead to jail time and a fine, Northam’s order does not carry a civil or criminal penalty. Without a means for enforcement, the order simply brings Virginia’s messaging more in line with that of neighboring states like Maryland and North Carolina, while adding clarity to what the state deems an essential outing.” I’m on the fence about whether or not you need to be out there during a pandemic charging folks with an actual factual crime for violating this stay-at-home order. I guess we’ll see how it goes over the coming days and weeks. Additionally, and after another week of springbreakers, Northam closed Virginia’s beaches except for exercise purposes. And, it looks like there’s a specific Liberty University clause telling higher ed institutions to move to remote classes. In Richmond, Mayor Stoney released a statement in support of the new Executive Order and tightened his restrictions on some outdoor amenities: Closing playgrounds and courts at public schools and at public parks, and banning “swimming, sunbathing, or gathering in groups at the river.” The City will also keep their offices closed until at least April 12th. Whew! That was a bunch of words to say “things are gonna stay this way for at least another month.”
Here’s a neat story: Faced with a lack of hand sanitizer for bus operators and not a lot of options to buy more, GRTC has placed a recurring, bulk order of hand sanitizer from Scott’s Addition-based Reservoir Distillery. And by bulk, I mean bulk. Like, huge 55-gallon drum bulk. It’s rad that Reservoir has decided to use their very specific equipment to produce useful pandemic products—it’s like wartime over here!
Also bus-related, GRTC needs masks for its operators—not medical grade masks, but DIY masks to help keep bus drivers safe while they provide a critical service for our essential workers—including nurses. In fact, an estimated 36% of transit commuters in the United State are classified as essential workers and require equipment like masks and gloves to help them feel safe while doing this important work. This need is immediate and will likely persist, so I’d like to help coordinate with folks who plan on making masks at scale. I know there are some of you reading this right now who are working on that very thing! Please drop me an email and let’s talk!
If you know of a public school student who needs a computer and/or internet access during This Most Unusual Time, please get their parent or guardian to fill out this survey from Richmond Public Schools. I still haven’t seen details on the proposed laptop program, but I imagine this is a step towards making that a reality.
This was a depressing email! I’ll leave you with this sidewalk chalk message I found on /r/rva. It made me smile.
Image by Andre Max on Adobe Stock