Spanberger, state health commissioner Oliver address COVID-19 during virtual meeting

HENRICO CITIZEN, WILL GONZALEZ

U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA 7th District) held a telephone town hall last night, her seventh since the COVID-19 pandemic began, to answer questions from callers and provide insight about the near future as Virginia continues to combat COVID-19.

“As we see rising rates of COVID-19 and hospitalizations in states across the county, we know all too well that the COVID-19 crisis continues to create crippling health and economic effects here in Central Virginia,” she said.

Spanberger told viewers that she is committed to preventing any Virginians with pre-existing conditions from losing their healthcare coverage. She also said that one of her education-related priorities during the pandemic is making sure students have access to the internet and the necessary technology for distance-learning in the event that they’re unable to return to school this fall.

“When schools closed down across Virginia in March of this year, it created many, many challenges for communities that are part of the seventh district,” Spanberger said. “In some places we have pretty expansive internet connectivity and in some places we do not.”

Spanberger has been advocating for more funding and fewer regulations for the federal E-Rate program, which provides telecommunications equipment at a discounted cost for libraries and schools in rural areas and their students.

Said Virginia Health Commissioner Normal Oliver, who joined the call: “I think we would all agree that, in general, [public schools] are greatly under-resourced in facing this pandemic.”

Listeners calling in voiced their concern about Virginia not conducting enough tests, and even though Oliver said that the state hopes to be testing 30,000 people a day by September, one caller noted that this is only a fraction of the state’s population – and that it would take roughly 285 days to test the entire population once at that rate.

Spanberger and Oliver both said the main challenge faced when trying to test as much as possible is the limited supply of PPE, as well as the materials necessary to conduct tests, such as swabs and reagents.

Spanberger has advocated use of the Defense Production Act, and Oliver said that the state is working with Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia in order to increase production of testing materials and to increase the speed at which tests are conducted and processed.

To conclude the town hall, Spanberger and Oliver discussed the impact COVID-19 has had on nursing homes and assisted living facilities, particularly in Central Virginia. Both said that funding from the CARES Act and the efforts to have a “baseline” of understanding of the extent of those outbreaks have been key to keeping them under control.

“They’re doing tremendous work with their patients and their residents, and I’ll continue to advocate to make sure they have the resources that they need,” Spanberger said. “And it is my hope that, moving into the future, we will see a transition for those residents to be able to have a bit of normalcy.”

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