Calls intensify for relief package, virus vaccine
As cases spike, lack of focus is damaging, regional official says
Virginia could receive the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year, but some business and political leaders warn that the current Congress must pass an emergency relief package to help the state weather a long-feared winter spike in the pandemic until a vaccine is generally available sometime next year.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, re-elected last week to a second term representing a district anchored in Henrico and Chesterfield counties, urged President Donald Trump and congressional leaders on Thursday to move swiftly to provide additional resources for responding to the pandemic
and aid to struggling families and businesses.
“Now more than ever, it is urgent that we come together to build a targeted, timely relief package that avoids partisan posturing and instead prioritizes combating our national public health emergency, addressing catastrophic unemployment rates, and protecting the security of the next generation,” Spanberger wrote in a letter to Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.
JB Holston, executive director of the Greater Washington Partnership, said a new emergency package should include at least $75 billion for “fast, frequent, asymptomatic testing” for the coronavirus and contact tracing to allow schools and businesses to open safely.
“We don’t have a focus on the things we can do which the pandemic is requiring,” warned Holston, who was dean of engineering and computer sciences at the University of Denver before joining the regional partnership led by business executives from Richmond to Baltimore. “It’s not just high risk. It’s literally causing damage across the country.”
Holston, a member of a COVID-19 response team in Colorado, said in an interview: “We’re on track for 1,500 deaths a day over the next 70 days if we don’t do any more than we’re doing. That’s 100,000 deaths — two Vietnams — in the next 70 days.”
His warning comes days after what he called the “clearly good news” that the Pfizer pharmaceutical company and BioNTech, a German research company, had achieved 90% effectiveness in ongoing clinical trials of a vaccine that could begin to be distributed by late December if approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The Phase 3 clinical trial of the vaccine’s efficacy is being conducted at 150