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Black Lawmakers in Virginia Urge Northam to Reconsider Friday Reopening

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus has asked Gov. Ralph Northam to refrain from reopening most of the state on Friday amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying that such a premature move would make Black and brown Virginians “guinea pigs for our economy.”

The caucus – composed of 23 Democratic state lawmakers — formally registered its opposition to Northam’s reopening Wednesday in a letter.

“Throughout our country’s history, black and brown people have been experimented on and used as unwilling test subjects before — we cannot allow that to be repeated here,” the caucus wrote in the letter signed by Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico), the caucus chair.

The letter could intensify the political pressure Northam faces as he weighs how to begin allowing some businesses and churches to reopen amid the pandemic, which so far has resulted in 927 deaths in Virginia.

In response to the letter, the governor’s office said Northam is “deeply appreciative of the Legislative Black Caucus and values their close partnership with him and his administration as we respond to this crisis.”

“He continues to be guided by public health, data and the CDC guidelines,” said Northam spokesperson Alena Yarmosky. “He is absolutely committed to moving forward in a safe, gradual manner that protects all Virginians, particularly low-income individuals, essential workers and communities of color.”

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