The last few weeks have seen positive news for the Richmond community in our battle against COVID-19. Cases have started to decline, roughly 54 percent of Richmond’s adult population has received at least one dose of the COVID- 19 vaccine and Virginia is on the way toward a return to pre-pandemic normalcy with Gov. Ralph S. Northam lifting the State of Emergency Declaration on June 30. This is all excellent news for both the health of Richmonders as well as our local economy.
As we look forward to brighter days, I want to take a moment to thank our local hospitals, medical professionals, local clinics and the Richmond City Health District for everything they’ve done during the last year to help our city recover.
As many of you know, earlier this year, COVID-19 became personal for me as I became one of more than 85,000 Central Virginians infected with the virus. I was lucky that I could recover in the comfort of my own home, but I was constantly thinking of my fellow Richmond residents who fell more seriously ill and were admitted to local hospitals.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a good reminder of the critical role played by Richmond’s health care infrastructure, from large hospital systems to our local network of Federally Qualified Healthcare Centers and state public health facilities. Throughout the pandemic, local systems like HCA Virginia, VCU Health and Bon Secours have aided thousands of our neighbors who had to be hospitalized for COVID-19.
VCU Health supported mass vaccination clinics to get vaccinations out quickly to those at the highest risk. HCA Healthcare didn’t lay off any employees and provided pandemic pay to ensure all of its employees weathered the pandemic with some financial security. In partnership with the Richmond City Health
District, Bon Secours held vaccine clinics using its mobile health clinic, Care-A-Van, at the Sacred Heart Center to provide hundreds of doses in the early days of vaccine distribution to our Latino and African-American communities in South Richmond.
A strong health care system is vital to our city’s economy, regardless of whether we are in the middle of a pandemic or otherwise. Our hospitals, along with the RCHD and our network of FQHCs such as the Daily Planet and Capital Area Health Network, see hundreds of thousands of patients a year and provide thousands of jobs that help keep our economy strong.
This holiday, we should all take a moment to say thank you and support our health care workers who are still staffing the front lines. Because this pandemic is not over, we still have work to do to keep everyone safe, and that means getting vaccinated as soon as you can. I feel grateful to be fully vaccinated. The science is clear: The vaccine is effective and also will allow us to eat at our favorite restaurants, have the chance to hug our loved ones and worship with our fellow churchgoers with confidence.
With the help of our doctors, nurses, medical centers, hospitals and entire health system, Richmond is recovering faster and more fully. It will take a strong economy and a healthy and confident public. But with our medical professionals supporting us, and more and more individuals receiving the vaccine, we will emerge from this pandemic resilient and stronger than before.
The writer is mayor of the City of Richmond.