Richmond plans to use a portion of its COVID-19 relief funding to pay for hotel rooms for residents who are infected with the coronavirus and unable to isolate safely.
Mayor Levar Stoney announced the initiative Thursday during his weekly COVID-19 briefing. The city will pay for rooms on behalf of residents who cannot self-isolate because of their living situations.
“I’ve been to homes in Richmond where there are sometimes six, seven people living in a two-bedroom home, throughout the city,” Stoney said. “That makes it very difficult to self-isolate.”
The Richmond Health District will determine who qualifies for one of the rooms. A news release states the rooms will go to individuals who test positive for the virus and have a “demonstrated need” for isolating in a hotel room.
Richmond’s Continuum of Care, a network of organizations that aid the homeless, will coordinate the stays, Stoney said.
Since the start of the pandemic, officials in homeless services have used hotel rooms as a quick way to get the region’s most vulnerable residents off the streets and indoors during the pandemic.
Families living in cramped homes, sometimes shared among multiple generations, also face increased risk if a loved one tests positive for the virus, Stoney said.
Stoney could not immediately say how much relief money was earmarked for the rooms or how many residents could benefit from them.
The city will also provide meals and primary care related to the virus for individuals isolating in the rooms, Stoney said. Those supports will be covered through a family crisis fund the Robins Foundation started at the outset of the pandemic.
“Let me be very clear: this program is specifically for those who cannot isolate safely, not a vacation for those who can,” Stoney said. “These COVID-19 patients will be cared for and sheltered for the good of themselves, their families, and the entire city.”
To date, the virus has infected 888 and killed 20 city residents, according to figures made available by the Virginia Department of Health.
As most localities around the state have begun easing restrictions established in mid-March to slow the virus, Richmond requested, and received from the state, a delay from doing so last week. That lasts through May 28.
Stoney said a decision on whether the city will begin easing restrictions, or request an additional delay, will come early next week.