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VP Kamala Harris to visit Baltimore on Biden administration’s 100th day, tout COVID relief, recovery

On the Biden administration’s 100th day Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Baltimore to tout COVID-19 vaccination and recovery efforts and pitch massive jobs and family aid packages that will be considered by a sharply divided Congress.

Harris, who based her headquarters in Baltimore when she was a Democratic presidential candidate, is to appear in the city the day after President Joe Biden made his first joint address to Congress.

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Harris was expected to promote the administration’s continued vaccination push — an effort that has led to 200 million doses being administered, but which has seen Black and Hispanic people vaccinated at lower rates than their shares of the populations of many states and localities.

As of Wednesday, the Maryland Department of Health reported about 31.5% of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated. Almost 43% of the population has received at least one vaccine dose.

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Among the 1.9 million people fully vaccinated, about 22% are Black, though they make up about a third of the state’s population. Just over 5% of those fully vaccinated are Hispanic, though they make up more than 10% of the population.

In March, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan unveiled a plan to improve the equitable distribution of vaccines, including working with churches and community groups that request clinics in their neighborhoods.

The vice president is expected to go Thursday to the mass vaccination site at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, where Hogan plans to join her, according to his spokesman, Mike Ricci.

Hogan called the site Wednesday “a perfect example of a very well-run vaccination center that we’re very proud of ... We’re going to be proud to show it off to her.”

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The site, where the NFL’s Ravens play their home games, is operated by the University of Maryland Medical System in partnership with the state and Maryland National Guard.

During his speech Wednesday night, Biden told mask-wearing members of Congress in the U.S. House of Representatives that about 90% of Americans now live within 5 miles of a vaccination site.

“We’re vaccinating the nation. We’re creating hundreds of thousands of jobs,” the president said. But he cautioned: “There’s still more work to do to beat this virus. We can’t let our guard down now.”

Harris invited Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott to join her for Thursday’s visit to Baltimore, said Cal Harris, the mayor’s communications director.

Other elected officials planning on attending, according to their aides, include U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. They are Democrats.

The White House has not addressed why Baltimore was selected for Harris, a former U.S. senator and California attorney general, to appear on the administration’s milestone day.

Democratic-dominated Baltimore gave the Biden-Harris ticket 87.2% of the vote in last year’s presidential election.

City and state elected officials welcomed the March passage of Biden’s American Rescue Plan, a COVID-19 relief bill they clamored for after seeing revenues plunge because of the coronavirus pandemic. Baltimore is getting about $670 million in direct support, while the state is receiving about $4 billion, according to federal lawmakers. Congress passed the $1.9 trillion plan without any Republican votes.

In 2019, Harris located her primary campaign headquarters in a Baltimore office building. The campaign said Baltimore felt like a “sister city” to Oakland, California, where Harris grew up, and that both were vibrant cities facing challenges related to poverty and crime.

Harris ended her presidential bid in December 2019, but was picked later to be Biden’s running mate. She is the first female vice president and woman of color to win that office.

In opening his speech Wednesday, Biden greeted Harris as “Madame Vice President” and adding: “No president has ever said those words from this podium, and it’s about time.”

Maryland Democratic Party Chair Yvette Lewis said Wednesday that she was “thrilled” Harris planned to mark the administration’s 100th day in the city.

“Baltimore has always been at the heart of our nation — it’s a city of hope, tenacity and grit — there is no better place to start putting America back on track,” Lewis said.

In addition to the rescue plan, the Biden administration now has an American Jobs Plan. Congressional Republicans have questioned its proposals to raise corporate taxes to fund improvements to the nation’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

Biden and Harris also are pitching the just-announced American Families Plan, a bill that focuses on child care, education and paid family leave.

Baltimore Sun reporters Meredith Cohn and Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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