Richmond Times-Dispatch

Calls intensify for relief package, virus vaccine

As cases spike, lack of focus is damaging, regional official says

- BY MICHAEL MARTZ Richmond Times-Dispatch

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

 ?? UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND SCHOOL OF MEDICINE ?? In May, a patient participat­ed in a trial of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The vaccine could begin distributi­on by year’s end.
UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND SCHOOL OF MEDICINE In May, a patient participat­ed in a trial of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The vaccine could begin distributi­on by year’s end.
 ??  ?? Holston
Holston

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