RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney addressed the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday.
Dr. Melissa Viray with the Richmond City Health District and Economic Development Director Leonard Sledge joined the mayor to provide an update on the city’s COVID-19 numbers and the economic impact the virus has had.
Viray told reporters that the state has not seen a surge of cases as other states have, but warned that it will only stay that way if Virginians remain vigilant. She added that the Virginia Department of Health has noticed an uptick in big group gatherings, like weddings and funerals.
“We are beginning to see suggestions that we are increasing in our infection rate,” Dr. Viray said. “Our ability to reopen and to stay open depends on our community’s ability to do it safely.”
“We gotta do our part,” Stoney said.
Viray said a study’s early findings show that in Central Virginia, three percent of adults have COVID-19 antibodies. Examining the whole state, she said 2.4 percent of Virginians have antibodies.
“The numbers are happily lower than what I expected overall,” she said.
On the economic front, some small businesses are getting relief. Richmond’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) announced that more than $900,000 dollars of the city’s federal CARES act funding will be used to excuse the 48 small businesses who applied for Richmond Small Business Disaster Loans.
This means the businesses don’t have to pay the loans back. “The money is going right back into Richmond’s economy,” Stoney said. “It’s just a little help from the city of Richmond to ensure that they can go to bed tonight with less stress.”
The city has allocated $1 million of its total $20.1 million federal CARES Act appropriation to the EDA to pay for the program. It was created in April, and provided loans of up to $20,000 to eligible small businesses in the city to help pay employee wages. Under the original program guidelines, payments were deferred for the first six months, with zero percent interest to repay the loan over 48 months.
Viray also gave some updated complaint numbers. She said in Henrico and Richmond, they’ve received more than 1,8000 complaints in from people accusing certain businesses of not enforcing or complying with certain COVID-19 requirements, like wearing masks or social distancing. The health district still has not suspended any permits in either locality though.
WATCH: Full coronavirus briefing with Mayor Stoney, city officials