Northam grants Mayor Stoney’s request to delay ‘Phase 1’ of reopening city of Richmond

Published: May. 14, 2020 at 11:27 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Governor Ralph Northam has granted Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s request to delay “Phase One” of reopening the city.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney says he “cannot justify risking the health and safety of the residents of the great city of Richmond by moving forward with Phase One” on Friday.

Richmond will now enter Phase One of reopening no earlier than midnight on Thursday, May 28.

“To be clear – I want to reopen our city. However, we should only take that step when there are adequate protections for our most vulnerable communities,” Mayor Levar Stoney said in a letter to Governor Ralph Northam.

NBC12 asked the Governor if other municipalities, besides Northern Virginia, have asked to delay phase one and he said he had spoken with Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney this morning. Accomack County also requested to have its reopening delayed.

“As I have said previously, Virginia’s Phase One guidelines represent a floor, not a ceiling,” said Northam. “I have encouraged local leaders to request exemptions when appropriate, and I am pleased to grant the delays for both Accomack County and the City of Richmond.”

[ FULL TEXT: Read the governor’s phase one guidelines here ]

Richmond has nearly 600 confirmed cases and this has been a big concern for city leaders. Mayor Stoney has been vocal about needing more testing. Phase one will allow some non-essential businesses to operate with restrictions in place.

“Right now, the data is showing an increase in percent positivity over the past two weeks. Therefore, I cannot justify risking the health and safety of the residents of the City of Richmond by moving forward with Phase One,” said Stoney.

“For me, it’s not just the total number of cases in the region or the city that I believe we must be vigilant in monitoring – it’s the impact this disease is having on our most vulnerable,” said Stoney. “It’s the essential personnel, the grocery workers, the Uber drivers, the restaurant workers and my own employees here at city hall.”

During a press conference, Stoney cited the disparate impact the disease has on Black Richmonders as one of the reasons he asked for a delay.

“In Richmond, 16 out of the 18 resident deaths have been Black people. This is a factor we can’t ignore,” he said.

Following the approval to delay Richmond’s reopening by Northam, the reaction from small businesses in the city was mixed. Mass Flow Barbershop and Salon off Midlothian Turnpike was preparing to reopen their store with updated social distancing measures, but now barbers are upset that they’ll have to wait at least two more weeks before they can get back to work.

“If you don’t have any income for two months how are you supposed to feed yourself, how are you supposed to keep the lights on, we’re struggling with that right now. I’m struggling with that right now,” Mass Flow barber Vernon Powell said. “I scheduled appointments according to that and now I have to cancel every last one of them.”

In contrast, the Richmond Heritage Federal Credit Union says they support Mayor Stoney’s decision, believing that at this time Richmond isn’t ready to reopen due to a spike in positive cases in the past two weeks.

“The whole city of Richmond should really be cautious about how they are opening their business and when they are opening their businesses to make sure that they have a plan of action in place for the staff and for the customers they serve,” loan officer Lydia Brown said.

REWATCH Mayor Stoney’s Full Press Conference Here:

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