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FEMA is Giving Arlington More Than $2 Million for Vaccine Distribution Efforts

Arlington County is slated to receive nearly $2.3 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to support the distribution of coronavirus vaccines, Virginia’s U.S. Senators announced on Tuesday.

The money will go toward storage supplies, transportation support, staffing, personal protective equipment, and other equipment to ensure facilities align with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said a joint press release from Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.

“We’re glad to see these federal dollars go toward helping Arlington County effectively administer the COVID-19 vaccine,” the senators said in a joint statement. “We will keep working to ensure the Commonwealth has the resources it needs to best respond to this pandemic.”

News of the funding comes on the heels of announcements that local hospitals like Inova and Virginia Hospital Center will no longer be distribution sites, at least for now. Since then, county staff have worked to get 3,750 appointments from VHC transferred to the County’s vaccine management system, said Aaron Miller, the county’s emergency management director.

Despite this, Miller said Arlington County is prepared to vaccinate about 2,000 people daily. Unfortunately, he said, the county can only make 540 appointments a day because it is receiving 2,750 vaccines per week from the state.

“This funding demonstrates exactly how ready Arlington is,” Miller told ARLnow. “That the federal government would grant this type of advanced reimbursement based on our plans and capabilities — as quickly as supply can meet — demonstrates that we have the capability.”

The only thing standing in the county’s way, at this point, is the vaccine supply itself, he said.

“I can’t emphasize that enough,” he said.

Under Gov. Ralph Northam’s Major Disaster Declaration to help Virginia respond to COVID-19, localities can apply to FEMA for funding to support vaccine distribution, the release said. Arlington County is the first of the Commonwealth’s localities to apply for and receive the funding.

With the money, the County will purchase more cold storage for the vaccine doses, Miller said. Right now it has some smaller travel-sized unit, and additional upright, ultra-cold storage is supposed to be arriving in a week or so, Miller said. He said his department needs more cold storage to have the flexibility to set up additional vaccine clinics.

Miller’s department will also expand vaccine outreach and engagement efforts. He said more people are needed to handle calls from residents to schedule appointments and provide information about the vaccine distribution.

The latest COVID-19 relief package in Congress, supported by senators Warner and Kaine, included more than $19 billion for vaccines and therapeutics and an additional $8.75 billion to support vaccine distribution, particularly for states and localities, to slow the spread of the pandemic.

Last March, Kaine urged former President Donald Trump to consider any disaster declaration requests so states could use FEMA’s Public Assistance program to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Public Assistance is funded through the Disaster Relief Fund, to which Congress provided an additional $45 billion in the CARES Act.

In addition to the FEMA funding, Northern Virginia’s congressional representatives are pushing for a local mass vaccination site.

Today (Tuesday), Reps. Don Beyer, Gerald Connolly and Jennifer Wexton wrote to FEMA requesting that one of President Biden’s proposed 100 community mass vaccination sites be located in Northern Virginia, using Arlington County to make their case.

“Northern Virginia already has the capacity,” they wrote. “For example, Arlington County is receiving roughly 2,700 doses per week but has the capacity to do at least 1,000 per day. Staffing is not the limiting factor, supply is.”

The representatives also said that Arlington County also has the highest percentage of individuals willing to be vaccinated in the country, at 92%, followed by neighboring jurisdictions in the region.

Despite the lack of local vaccine supply, the number of vaccinations reported in Arlington by the Virginia Dept. of Health continues to grow.

Earlier today VDH reported another 1,116 vaccine doses administered to Arlingtonians, in addition to the 1,073 doses reported yesterday, bringing the trailing seven-day average to up to 678 doses per day. So far, 11,110 doses have been administered and 1,036 people have been fully vaccinated in Arlington, according to VDH.

County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti, meanwhile, provided the following video update on vaccinations in Arlington today, noting that the county will be providing more frequent updates going forward.

Image via the Department of Defense

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