Mayor Levar Stoney talks upcoming festivals, engagement on proposed COVID-19 relief spending at Wednesday briefing

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney expressed his excitement for two popular upcoming festivals in the city on Wednesday, while also addressing the city’s response to COVID-19 and giving an update on public engagement for proposed spending of American Rescue Plan funding.

The annual 2nd Street Festival is coming up Oct. 2-3 in Richmond’s historic Jackson Ward neighborhood, while the Richmond Folk Festival will be taking place on Brown’s Island Oct. 8-10. When asked about any concerns with a potential rise in COVID-19 cases from these events, which will draw thousands to both locations, Stoney said he wasn’t worried about a spike.

“Venture Richmond’s been working with the health department on how to put these sorts of events on safely,” Stoney said. “I feel confident we can actually do that.”

According to VDH data, 75 new cases of COVID-19 were reported for the City of Richmond. There have been over 22,000 total cases reported, with 310 deaths.

Richmond is due to receive $155 million in federal money from the American Rescue Plan. The money will come in two installments. Stoney earlier this month presented a draft proposal of where funds will be allocated to City Council.

The mayor continues to seek public input on the proposal. Over the course of the summer, Richmond residents were encouraged to participate in a city survey and provide suggestions about where the money should be spent.

Stoney has proposed spending over $135 million on housing, child care and community projects, as well as green initiatives.

“We have an opportunity to make some real transformational changes with this money,” Stoney said.

There are two more public meetings where more information about the proposal will be presented. The first is on Sept. 30 at 6 p.m. at Diversity Richmond, and the second is on Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. at Boys and Girls Club Metro Richmond Teen Center.

Dr. Danny Avula also spoke at the briefing. He said he believes the city and state as a whole are rounding the curve on the delta variant, but now isn’t the time to let your guard down.

“We are seeing a decreasing trend in case counts, but now is not a time to let up or be cavalier about it,” he said.”

Dr. Avula also touched on COVID-19 booster shots and vaccine supply. Currently, only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for use as booster shots, and Avula said the state is waiting on additional guidance regarding boosters for those who received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots.

The state currently has 1.2 million vaccine doses in circulation, according to Dr. Avula.

Stoney did not provide an update on vaccination efforts among city employees, nor was an update shared on the fate of employees who remain noncompliant with the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Employees had a chance to file for an exemption and be subjected to weekly coronavirus testing. But those who have not been exempted and choose not to be vaccinated could be fired. Roughly 30 people as of Sept. 15 were on leave due to noncompliance.

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