Despite aggressive efforts to “flatten the curve” of the rate of transmission of COVID-19, the state will continue to see the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths climb in Maryland for weeks, Gov. Larry Hogan has told lawmakers.
Hogan made his comments during a call with members of a legislative work group monitoring the state response to the worldwide pandemic. The briefing was not accessible to the public live. An audio-only version was posted on the General Assembly website Wednesday afternoon.
During the briefing, Hogan responded to concerns about the potential infections of essential state employees, including correctional officers.
Hogan acknowledged that state employees are getting sick and some workers are calling out for fear of getting sick.
“This morning we had a situation with the National Guard, we’ve activated 1,200 members of the National Guard,” said Hogan. “We now have 200 of them in quarantine because several members got sick. We’re going to continue to have issues in the workforce as we are having in every industry and in every hospital and everywhere else. But we’re trying very hard.”
State health officials last week said that modeling of the spread of the virus indicated it would increase to 1,800 cases by April 2. Those same officials said Maryland may not reach its peak of cases in the state until July 4.
On Wednesday, the state Health Department announced 1,960 confirmed cases of the virus along with 31 deaths — up 13 from the previous day. Both numbers represent the single highest day since the state reported its first three cases on March 5. There have also been more than 500 patients hospitalized after contracting the virus.
Hogan said that despite efforts he called some of the most aggressive in the country, “it’s still going to be daunting, and those numbers are going to continue to climb over the next several weeks at least, and it’s going to cause an overwhelming problem for our health care system and for every single agency of state government and that’s on the health care side and then … I know on the economic side, it’s just as bad.”
The call Wednesday morning represents the first time Hogan has spoken directly to a committee or panel of lawmakers. Hogan said the massive effects of the virus will also be felt economically.
“Our No. 1 priority is saving people’s lives, but we also know it’s a tremendous economic hardship, and we know we’re going to have upwards of 20, 25 percent unemployment and massive harm to our small businesses,” said Hogan.
Hogan said his executive orders, including closing non-essential businesses and ordering residents to stay at home except for necessities, are meant to “save the lives of hundreds of Marylanders and perhaps keep hundreds of thousands of people from getting sick.”
Hogan repeated mortality figures released by federal officials that could see as many as 2.5 million Americans die from the virus in the absence of aggressive efforts to contain its spread.
“If we do everything perfectly and we take every single one of these steps, the very best-case scenario that we can possibly hope for is losing 100,000 Americans,” Hogan told the lawmakers.
The lack of testing and an inadequate supply of personal protective gear continues to frustrate Hogan and Deputy Health Secretary Fran Phillips.
Hogan sidestepped questions about how many tests the state has on hand. The state has requested nearly 140,000 COVID-19 tests, but Hogan and Phillips declined to say how many the state has received.
“This is not the way we would ordinarily conduct public health surveillance so we do believe our confirmed cases do not align with where the infection is because simply we don’t have the supplies to do the testing that we would love to do,” said Phillips.
Instead, Hogan and Phillips thanked the federal government for the aid it has provided while expressing that it is not enough.
Hogan has avoided direct criticism of President Donald Trump, saying it was not the time for finger pointing. The president has been accused of attempting to freeze out some governors who were critical of federal efforts.
“We’re increasing our capacity but it is very frustrating to hear of new test products coming or new testing devices but yet when we go to make an order we can’t access either these kits or those devices. but we’re continuing to push on that every day,” said Phillips.