NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The pandemic was eye-opening for governments big and small. It put our health and emergency systems to the test.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was in Norfolk on Friday morning to make two stops.
First, he visited Instant Systems, a woman-owned biotechnology supply manufacturer. Then, he headed over to Military Circle Mall, which has a FEMA COVID-19 vaccine site, to sign legislation for equity in emergency management.
WAVY was at both events.
“We will put more emphasis on equity. There will be a task group a group of individuals that know the needs of the communities that will help us learn about what those needs are and to put those needs into action,” he said
Sen. Lionell Spruill sponsored one of the pieces of legislation, SB1296.
“When a disaster happens a hurricane happens the minority community and the poor community they are always the last one to get service, so we are trying to make equity so that anybody across the board will get service,” he said.
The other bill, HB2085, was sponsored by Del. Alex Askew. It focuses on how localities will be embracing equity.
“It is already codified that each locality has to have an emergency plan, but what we are looking at is to include diversity equity and inclusion in those said plans. So, we want to look at certain communities to see how the most vulnerable citizens can be prepared for an emergency like a hurricane or flood, or even a pandemic,” he said.
Northam and members of the equity leadership task force say the pandemic helped show them the discrepancies that exist within minorities and poor communities.
They are looking to improve their response to emergencies.
Separately, Northam just announced on Thursday that Virginians will no longer have to wear a mask when alone or in a small group outdoors, going with new CDC guidance.
The announcement also immediately allows crowds of up to 1,000 people at outdoor recreational events such as high school sports.
More restrictions on gatherings, outdoor entertainment events and more are expected to be changed on May 15.