The Richmond Ambulance Authority joined local leaders from the City of Richmond Counties of Chesterfield, Henrico, Goochland and Hanover to provide an update on the regional response to COVID-19. Together the group makes up the Central Virginia All Hazards Incident Management Team. Local leaders outlined steps they have taken to combat the spread of the virus and have encouraged citizens to follow local and state websites for reliable information regarding the disease.
Mayor Levar Stoney declared a local state of emergency for the City of Richmond to coincide with the Governor’s State of Emergency Declaration.
“These declarations enable us, working in concert with state government, to act swiftly and responsibly to marshal resources and it will enable us to work collaboratively to address the needs of our communities as COVID-19 evolves in our region,” said Mayor Stoney.
Henrico Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Daniel J. Schmitt acknowledged that COVID-19 has created “an unusual, inconvenient and perhaps frightening time.”
“As local officials, the greatest responsibility we collectively accept is to protect the health, safety and general welfare of our residents,” he said. “This is exactly what we are doing with our emergency declaration and our work as a region.”
Chesterfield Board of Supervisors Chair Leslie Haley urged residents to use reputable sources of information to stay on top of the outbreak. Like other localities Henrico, Chesterfield is providing updates and information on its website and social media accounts.
“While the CDC and the Virginia Department of Health continue to emphasize the risk is low, there are these higher risk individuals and these special populations that seem to be at this greater risk, and we need to be very mindful of them on a continuing basis,” she said. “These are particularly older adults and people at all ages with severe, underlying health conditions.”
A coordinated, regional response is critical because diseases like the coronavirus aren’t limited by municipal boundaries, Hanover Board of Supervisors Chair Sean Davis said.
“Working together, we will aggressively combat this public health emergency and, in doing so, continue to serve our citizens at the highest level,” he said.
In addition to its emergency declaration, Goochland will consider other precautionary measures, including limiting employee travel, large events and use of county facilities, said Susan F. Lascolette, chair of the Goochland Board of Supervisors.
“Working together as a region, our top priority is to make sure our residents and visitors stay safe and healthy,” she said.
Dr. Danny Avula, Director of the Richmond Henrico Health District said health officials have been challenged by the limited amount of data that has been collected on COVID-19 because of the limited testing capacity for the virus.
“As a result we only have a partial picture on what’s been going on with COVID-19 around the country,” said Avula.
Dr. Avula said the region is blessed with very capable healthcare providers but warned that if COVID-19 overwhelms the healthcare system it will lead to many preventable deaths, not just from the disease but other ailments that don’t get attention because of an overwhelmed system. Dr. Avula went on to say that 15 – 20% of individuals with COVID-19 will require some more acute intervention and 5 % will require more intense intervention.
“So we have got to do everything we can to flatten that epidemic curve,” said Avula. “We need to prevent that surge in disease that’s going to overwhelm the healthcare system and stretch out the epidemic so that our health care infrastructure can keep up with demands.”
Dr. Avula says all the messaging about hand-washing, face touching, handshakes and self isolation are going to be important in helping prevent the spread of the virus and that he’s seen social change happening fairly quickly. Dr. Avula says steps that local and state leaders have taken are bold and have not been taken out of fear but are acts of prevention, compassion, and preparation. He says it’s incredibly important to take early steps to stay ahead of the disease.
RAA has been and will continue to work with our regional partners as we coordinate our efforts to keep our communities safe.