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Mass. Lawmakers Press Vice President for Fast Coronavirus Support

Massachusetts lawmakers in Washington are urging Vice President Mike Pence to act quickly to help local health officials and residents combat the spread of coronavirus.

On Wednesday, the 10 of the 11 Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Pence, who heads the White House coronavirus task force and has become the face of the Trump administration’s response to the burgeoning pandemic. The letter asks for additional support to help officials in the state better respond to the crisis on the ground.

“It is now clear that COVID-19 has been spreading undetected around the country, as demand for COVID-19 diagnostic tests overwhelmed the limited supply provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in recent weeks,” the lawmakers state in the letter, obtained by WBUR.

They note that as of Wednesday morning, more than 117,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed across the country.

“Massachusetts has reported 92 coronavirus cases, and just yesterday, Governor [Charlie] Baker declared a state of emergency in the Commonwealth," the letter continues.

The letter was drafted and circulated by Sen. Elizabeth Warren's office and signed by 10 members of the House and Senate from Massachusetts. Congressman Richard Neal did not sign on.

It calls for quick action on the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s March 5 request for access to personal protective equipment and other resources from the Strategic National Stockpile.

The lawmakers also ask for expanded access to affordable diagnostic tests in Massachusetts, as well as any needed supplemental funding for state and local public health agencies. Finally, the delegation members request support for “wraparound services” for those in the state affected by coronavirus who rely on state and federal services for food, housing and other needs.

“While our request is specific to Massachusetts, we believe that the Task Force should consider taking these actions in support of other states as well,” the letter said.

Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this story misstated the number of lawmakers who signed the letter to Pence. Ten lawmakers signed the letter. 

This article was originally published on March 11, 2020.

Kimberly Atkins Twitter Senior News Correspondent
Kimberly Atkins is a senior news correspondent for WBUR, covering national political news from Washington, D.C., with a New England focus.

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