Culpeper Star-Exponent: Experts, Spanberger field Virginians’ health-care questions


Virginians have many worries about the nation’s public health crisis, and they shared some of them with U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger last week.

The 7th District Democrat hosted a telephone town hall Thursday to focus on health-care and COVID-19 issues confronting her constituents in the district’s 10 counties, which include Culpeper.

Virginia Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Resources Marvin Figueroa, Virginia Rural Health Association Executive Director Beth O’Connor, and Virginia Pharmacists Association Executive Director Christina Barrille joined the first-term congresswoman for the live event.

Answering residents’ questions directly, they discussed issues from rising prescription-drug costs to mounting demand for telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Figueroa thanked Spanberger for her leadership, saying it’s important for government officials to get immediate feedback from Virginians to better inform their decision-making.

“In Virginia, we’ve seen firsthand the tragedy and heartbreak COVID-19 has caused, especially within some of our most vulnerable communities,” the health official said. “During this pandemic, it’s critical to work together to protect access to affordable, high-quality health-care services.”

On behalf of the Rural Health Association, O’Connor also commended the legislator for addressing issues directly with the public.

“There’s been a huge shortage of PPE,” she said. “It’s especially difficult for some of our small, rural clinics. They don’t have the purchasing power that the large hospital systems have, so it’s been a little tricky.”

COVID-19 outbreaks in Arizona, Florida and California reduce the capacity of the nation’s private laboratories to process other states’ coronavirus tests and slows their turnaround time to yield results in Virginia, Figueroa said.

Virginia officials recently engaged in a dialogue with the federal Centers for Disease Control about the challenges they’re facing around getting testing supplies, he said.

“Checking in to see what kind of support we can get from the CDC, the biggest takeaway was that … we are on our own,” Figueroa said

“Through virtual conversations and on-site visits this week, I’ve focused on the wide range of health-care issues facing our communities—especially as the COVID-19 crisis continues to create uncertainty throughout Central Virginia,” Spanberger said in a statement. “I’ve met with public health officials, patients, mental health experts, pharmacists, and community health workers who are working tirelessly to protect the lives of our neighbors.”

“I remain committed to improving our response to the pandemic at all levels, protecting access to healthcare coverage, and building stronger healthcare outcomes for all Virginians long into the future,” she added.

People can watch the whole event here.

Since the pandemic began, Thursday’s event was Spanberger’s ninth public, telephonic town hall to examine COVID-19’s impacts on Central Virginia families, seniors and businesses.

Last month, the lawmaker introduced bipartisan legislation to maintain critical telehealth services and provide an additional $200 million for the Federal Communications Commission’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, which ran out of funding last month. That amount equals the sum Congress initially provided through its pandemic-related CARES Act earlier this year.

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