Hogan (R) ordered state agencies to identify broad cuts and said “it’s very unlikely” he’ll sign any legislation that requires new spending.
“Hopefully, we’ll not have to make the kind of cuts that [Franchot] was envisioning,” Hogan said at a news briefing, where he also ordered the state’s June 2 Democratic primary election to be conducted mostly by mail-in ballot “to ensure that the voice of every Marylander is heard in a safe and secure manner.”
The budget cuts coming will be severe, Hogan warned, and likely to extend for several years.
Earlier this month, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam predicted a $2 billion loss in tax revenue over the next two years, while the District estimated it needs to make $1.2 billion in spending cuts over the next 17 months.
Northam (D) appointed a “czar” to oversee the response to coronavirus at nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities, which as of Friday accounted for more than half of the locations in the state where people have tested positive and a quarter of all deaths.
The task force, headed by state deputy health commissioner Laurie Forlano, will “ensure we are doing everything possible to help these facilities,” Northam said, adding that a Richmond-area facility “is tragically dealing with one of the largest concentrations of deaths in a long-term-care facility in our country.”
That facility — Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in Henrico County — has reported 40 deaths from coronavirus. In all, 148 residents and staff have tested positive at the 190-bed rehab center, which serves mostly elderly patients recovering from illness or injury.
While the state has already concentrated resources at Canterbury and other nursing homes with serious outbreaks, Forlano said, “we need to offer them more help.”
The main problem, she said, is a chronic lack of personal protective equipment, or PPE, for health-care providers, compounded by an early lack of testing availability. Even now, officials said, testing turnaround times vary greatly, with state labs able to report results in 24 hours but some private labs taking as long as eight days.
Northam has repeatedly criticized the federal government as failing to provide enough equipment to states and as leaving governors to compete with one another to buy PPE on the open market. Long-term-care facilities “need testing and PPE, and the staff are overworked,” Northam said.
Hogan said Maryland is expanding its testing of vulnerable populations and providing greater assistance to facilities where they live.
The governor included group homes for medically fragile children in a state initiative to send “strike teams” to nursing homes that have been overwhelmed by infections. The initiative will also soon include assisted-living facilities for the elderly, Hogan said.
As of Friday, the teams — composed of National Guard members, state health officials, and medical professionals — had visited nine nursing homes and 15 group homes across the state, the governor said.
The latest efforts to control the spread of the deadly virus came as the tally of known covid-19 cases in the region continued to rise Friday.
The region’s total number of known coronavirus infections climbed by another 1,389 cases Friday, for a total of 13,157 — a reflection of both the increase in testing being done and the fact that the virus continues to seep into virtually every corner of society. Deaths in the region jumped by 51 for a total of 331 midday Friday.
With Easter arriving Sunday and the eight-day Passover holidays in full swing, officials repeated their warnings for residents to stay home and avoid gathering in large groups or risk the region becoming another major center for covid-19.
To mark Good Friday, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser held a “moment of prayer and silence” to honor those affected by the virus.
“Sunday, from my home, I will celebrate Easter,” Bowser (D) later said, before a bagpiper played “Amazing Grace” at a news conference held inside Gonzaga College High School, whose president, Stephen Planning, came down with the virus in mid-March. Planning, a Jesuit priest now fully recovered, attended.
“Many of our traditions are on hold this year, but our faith is not,” Bowser said.
Maryland had the most new fatalities Friday with 33, another in a string of record single-day increases. Overall, the state had 6,971 known cases of coronavirus infections.
The District’s tally of cases grew to 1,664, with 39 deaths. Virginia reported 469 new infections — also another single-day record — for a total of 4,522. The state had 121 covid-19 fatalities as of Friday.
Among the cases in Maryland are 57 people inside the state’s prison and jail system who have tested positive, said Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.
Mosby (D) hammered Hogan as not taking early steps to prevent the disease from spreading among the states’ inmates and corrections officers.
“More than two weeks ago, my office provided the Governor with a plan that was signed onto by criminal justice and public health experts from across the state,” Mosby said in a statement. “To date, the Governor has yet to respond to that plan nor come up with his own.”
Instead, her statement charged, the governor suggested that “‘they’re safer where they are,’ a comment as heartless as it is false,” the statement said.
Hogan’s chief spokesman, Michael Ricci, declined to respond to Mosby’s statement. Instead, Ricci provided a March 19 letter from the governor’s legal counsel to the state’s attorney that said her proposals would be taken “under advisement.”.
By contrast, Northam announced a proposal Friday to begin expediting the release of as many as 2,000 prison inmates who have less than a year remaining in their sentences to reduce the possibility of an outbreak, a measure likely to be approved by the Democrats who control the General Assembly when it meets for a veto session on April 22.
To be eligible, offenders “must have demonstrated good behavior and not be a threat to public safety,” Northam said.
In the District, seven additional members of the D.C. fire department have tested positive for coronavirus, officials said Friday.
That brings to 56 the number of firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians who have contracted covid-19. Eleven of them have recovered and returned to duty.
Fire officials said the number of members under quarantine is 269. An additional 300 members who had been quarantined have returned to work.
Amid a push by President Trump to restart much of the country’s economy by May, Bowser allowed the first open-air food market to reopen on a limited basis Friday.
The Arcadia Mobile Market in Southeast Washington, which focuses on providing produce to low-income neighborhoods, got permission to operate between 3 and 5 p.m., with the possibility of receiving permission to open again during those hours next Friday.
It is the first city market to receive a waiver after an order that took effect Thursday required them to shift to grab-and-go models and to restrict crowds.
Bowser cracked down on such businesses after large crowds gathered last weekend at the Wharf fish market in Southwest Washington, which is now closed until at least April 24.
Bowser has also shut down all nonessential businesses, restricting restaurants to carryout and delivery services.
District officials said they are working with other farmers markets to allow them to resume operations this weekend.
Dana Hedgpeth, Peter Hermann, Ovetta Wiggins, Rachel Chason, Julie Zauzmer, Fenit Nirappil and Rachel Weiner contributed to this report.