The dispute escalated during the president’s televised briefing Monday evening, when Trump said Hogan “didn’t understand” his state’s testing capacity, despite efforts by the federal government to provide lists of labs where additional testing could be done.
Hogan, asked about that issue, had told reporters most of the Maryland labs identified by the White House were at federal installations such as the National Institutes of Health and Fort Detrick, and some had not been helpful in assisting with testing.
“We already knew where all of the labs were,” Hogan said. “We’ve been pushing to get NIH to help us with testing for more than a month now.”
He later tweeted: “I’m grateful to President Trump for sending us a list of federal labs and generously offering Maryland use of them for #COVID19 testing. Accessing these federal labs will be critical for utilizing the 500,000 tests we have acquired from South Korea.”
The $9 million shipment is equivalent to one test for about every 12 Marylanders — a major step toward meeting the state’s goal of testing 10,000 a day, Hogan said. As of Monday morning, public and private labs had administered 71,397 coronavirus tests for Marylanders.
The governor said he wants to double Maryland’s daily testing goal to 20,000 and cautioned that the state needs other supplies, such as swabs and reagents.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, both Democrats, have also cited broader testing as an important milestone to reach before they and Hogan can consider a coordinated easing of restrictions in the greater Washington region, where the reported coronavirus caseload climbed past 25,000 on Monday.
Fatalities in the District, Maryland and Virginia nearly reached the 1,000 mark.
On Saturday, First Lady Yumi Hogan and I stood on the tarmac at @BWI_Airport to welcome the first ever Korean Air passenger plane, carrying a very important payload of LabGun #COVID19 test kits which will give MD the capability of performing half a million coronavirus tests. pic.twitter.com/Elf0ADIRnJ— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) April 20, 2020
Maryland’s deal with South Korea began nearly a month ago, with a Saturday night phone call by Hogan and his wife, Yumi, in the first lady’s native tongue.
Hogan asked his wife, who was born in rural South Korea, to join him on the line with Lee Soo Hyuck, the Republic of Korea’s ambassador to the United States.
The couple had visited the ambassador’s home in Washington with other governors a few weeks earlier. President Moon Jae-in phoned in via videoconference to say how proud Korea was of Yumi — believed to be the first Korean American first lady in U.S. history.
“We made a personal plea, in Korean, asking for their assistance,” the governor recalled Monday. “That call set in motion 22 straight days of vetting, testing, negotiations, and protocols between our scientists and doctors, eight Maryland state government agencies and our counterparts in Korea.”
He said negotiations took place almost nightly, and “sometimes, it seemed like all night.”
While the chartered Korean Air flight was en route to Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, the state was busy securing last-minute approvals from federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, Hogan said.
The governor said he was worried the federal government would seize the tests but declined to say the steps he took to make sure that didn’t happen.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden cited Maryland’s purchase in a statement about the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, which he called “so slow, and so ineffective, that the Governor of Maryland — a Republican — had to turn to South Korea to get badly-needed tests.”
In Virginia on Monday, Northam said he has formed a task force that “will work to increase testing volume and timeliness, to decrease backlogs and keep up with demand.”
While the state still lacks swabs, chemical reagents and other crucial elements, Northam said state labs, private health systems and colleges and universities have marshaled enough resources to begin creating a systematic approach to testing that will help officials better understand the spread of the disease.
Northam said Vice President Pence, in a Monday call with governors, offered federal assistance in testing at nursing homes and other institutions serving the vulnerable. But the governor also complained that the federal government has not followed through on its responsibility to help states get access to supplies.
“That was the conversation that we had with the vice president today,” Northam said. “I think they understand that, and are working on not only manufacturing more of those swabs but also in dispersing and directing those to states that need it the most.”
The District has started deploying rapid coronavirus testing equipment at institutions serving the vulnerable. City officials say their public health lab has the capacity to test up to 500 a day but does not get that many requests. They are encouraging anyone with symptoms to seek tests — not just those in high-risk groups.
Officials are watching for declines in reports of flu-like illnesses, in addition to lab-confirmed coronavirus cases, and monitoring the availability of personal protective equipment for health professionals, as it weighs whether and when to lift restrictions.
Under current orders, nonessential businesses will remain closed at least until May 15 in the District, May 10 in Maryland and May 8 in Virginia, which has a stay-at-home through June 10. Maryland has extended school closures at least through May 15, while the District and Virginia have closed schools through the end of the academic year.
Officials also are monitoring the number of people hospitalized to gauge the progress of the pandemic. Virginia reported 600 new hospitalizations over the past week, while Maryland reported about 1,000. Neither state showed significant declines in the number of daily admissions.
More than 400 people were hospitalized with covid-19, the disease the virus causes, in the District as of Monday, with 120 in intensive care units and 59 requiring ventilators. That’s an increase from 295 hospitalized as of last Monday, with 94 in intensive care and 31 requiring hospitalizations.
Officials say D.C. hospitals are running at about 70 percent capacity and have not needed the extra hospital beds originally projected to be needed in mid-April. The city is turning its downtown convention center into a care facility for patients with mild covid-19 symptoms. By early May, the center should be able to treat up to 500, officials said.
The District, Maryland and Virginia on Monday reported a total of 66 new covid-19 fatalities and more than 1,400 positive test results received. Those results generally reflect tests taken a week ago or more, and infections contracted a week or more before that. The three jurisdictions have reported roughly 60 to 70 deaths daily for the past five days.
The District added 134 covid-19 cases and nine new fatalities, pushing the city’s death toll to 105.
Maryland added 855 new cases, its highest single-day increase in two weeks. More than a quarter of the cases are located in Prince George’s County, which leads the state in both infections and deaths. The county added seven deaths, bringing its total fatalities to 112. Neighboring Montgomery County reported 140 new cases and 10 new deaths.
In Virginia, there were 453 new infections, nearly half located in the D.C. suburbs. The Fairfax health district, which encompasses Fairfax County, Fairfax City and Falls Church, reported 150 new cases, while Prince William County and the city of Alexandria added 59 and 38 cases, respectively. There were also 23 new deaths recorded in Virginia, including 11 in Fairfax.
While the District has largely avoided protests against social distancing measures, both Annapolis and Richmond have seen small pockets of resistance. A demonstration in Annapolis on Monday attracted fewer people than media inquiries, according to state officials, after a somewhat larger demonstration last week.
Maryland legislative leaders announced Monday that they would not reconvene in May, weeks after ending their session early for the first time since the Civil War. They cited the danger of covid-19 but did not rule out returning for a special session later this year if necessary.
The Republican Party of Virginia, meanwhile, echoed Trump’s recent criticism of Virginia’s shutdown, in an email that also called for Virginians to “liberate” themselves. The party urged reporters attending Northam’s news briefing to “consider asking him if shutting down Virginia is actually for our health.”
The jabs drew criticism from Northam, who said Republicans — including at the federal level — are sending “mixed messages.”
On the one hand, the governor said, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is guiding states to look for 14 days of declining infections before reopening.
“And two days later we see tweets that say to liberate Virginia,” Northam said. “What this has done is, I guess, entitled folks to have protests, not only in Virginia but in other states.”
“I am just as anxious as anybody else out there to relieve these restrictions,” Northam said. “I really don’t need people protesting to encourage me to open up our economy any sooner than we can do safely and responsibly.”
Schneider reported from Richmond. Rebecca Tan, Laura Vozzella in Richmond and Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.