Gov. Larry Hogan Tuesday wrote President Donald Trump to accept an offer that would allow Maryland to utilize federal labs in the state
for COVID-19 testing.
The letter comes less than a day after Trump criticized Hogan for securing test kits from South Korea that would allow for 500,000 residents to eventually be tested for the upper respiratory illness that has killed more than 500 people in the state and wreaked havoc on local and national economies.
“These federal labs can be key to our utilizing the 500,000 tests we recently acquired from South Korea and our comprehensive recovery plan to get Marylanders back to work as safely and quickly as possible,” Hogan wrote in his letter, which was released to reporters. “I was grateful to hear of your generous offer to allow the State of Maryland to access these federal labs for our testing. I am writing today to personally thank you and the Vice President and to request guidance on how we can immediately proceed on this important federal-state collaboration.”
“If there as an easier way, we certainly would have taken it,” Hogan said Tuesday morning on MSNBC in discussing why he resorted to purchasing tests from South Korea. “Every governor in America has been fighting to get the tests since the beginning of this crisis, and it’s probably been the No. 1 problem in America throughout this entire crisis.”
On Monday, Hogan announced that Maryland and South Korea reached a deal for 5,000 test kits — enough to test 500,000 Marylanders. The kits were secured after more than 20 days of negotiations that included Hogan’s wife Yumi, who was born in South Korea and immigrated to the United States.
Those kits arrived in Maryland on Saturday in a secretive shipment that came direct from Korea to Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport.
“As Vice President Pence detailed on the governors’ call yesterday, Maryland is fortunate to have a plethora of federal installations with the potential to play a critical role in increasing our testing capacity, including Aberdeen Proving Ground, Fort Detrick, Fort Meade, the National Institutes of Health, and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center,” Hogan wrote. “These federal labs can be key to our utilizing the 500,000 tests we recently acquired from South Korea and our comprehensive recovery plan to get Marylanders back to work as safely and quickly as possible.
A lack of testing supplies including swabs and chemicals and lab availability could limit how fast the tests can be made available to the public. Hogan would like to move faster.
Hogan, in his letter, said that he and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Boswer, wrote in March “requesting ‘that you add the National Capital Region to the priority locations for federally-supported COVID-19 testing sites,’ noting that we “are well-positioned to make the best possible use of federal support for this testing.”
The shipment appeared to irritate Trump, who criticized Hogan directly on multiple occasions during a Monday briefing and on Twitter.
“The governor of Maryland didn’t really understand,” said Trump as he described a Monday phone call between Vice President Mike Pence and governors, including Hogan. “He didn’t really understand what was going on.”
Pence has pressed state governors to do more testing on their own.
“The president said the governors are on their own and they should really focus on getting their own tests and that’s exactly what we did,” Hogan said during a Tuesday morning interview n MSNBC. He made similar comments on Fox News and on “The View.”
“His message changed yesterday,” said Hogan. “I’m not sure why.”
Trump, during his briefing, told reporters that Hogan and others were told of facilities in their states.
“The governor of Maryland could’ve called Mike Pence and saved a lot of money,” Trump said. “I think he needed to get a little knowledge.”
Hogan made the round of talk shows Monday night and Tuesday morning and said many of the facilities highlighted were federal labs that, while known to him and other governors, were not previously available for state use.
“The president showed that in a press conference and basically said we didn’t have to go to Korea because look at all these things we have in our state,” said Hogan in the TV interview. “They aren’t tests. They’re just labs that don’t have any tests, and they’re federally owned labs.”
Hogan has said that widespread testing would be needed in order to begin to move the state to the point where he could lift restrictions imposed to mitigate the spread of the illness. Those restrictions, however, may have limited the spread of the disease but at the price of all but essential businesses in the state.
Nearly 300,000 residents in Maryland have joined 22 million nationwide on the unemployment rolls in the last four weeks.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 tests have been done daily in Maryland recently. Hogan initially set a goal of 10,000 tests per day if more tests could be acquired, and he now suggests that the goal could be raised significantly once tests are in hand.