Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) flatly rejected President Trump’s claim that the states have everything they need to confront the COVID-19 pandemic head-on.
“It’s obviously not the case,” Hogan told reporters at a State House news conference Wednesday. “There are still things that we really need.”
Hogan said the federal government has improved its supply of PPE and ventilators — and he praised Congress for helping businesses, schools and the unemployed through the CARES Act. But the recent spike in cases in dozens of states has strained the system anew, he said.
“We don’t have all the things we need. Every governor still needs a lot of other things that we’re still fighting for,” Hogan said at the late afternoon news conference.
The lack of testing and other supplies is reminiscent of the early days of the crisis, said Hogan, the chairman of the National Governors Association. “It’s looking like it was in March and April.”
At a White House briefing on Monday, Trump said states have “everything they need.”
“The governors are working very, very hard, and we are supporting them 100%,” Trump said. “Everything they need they get, and we are taking good care. We have tremendous supplies and a great supply chain, whether it’s ventilators or gowns or just about anything they need.”
The White House “currently has zero unfulfilled requests for equipment or anything else that they need from the governors,” Trump added. “No governor needs anything right now and we think we’ll have it that way until the end because frankly we are stocked up and ready to go.”
Hogan has ramped up his criticism of Trump in recent days during interviews leading up to the publication of his memoir next week. He appeared to concede that candor may carry risks, saying, “I hesitate to be overly critical in the middle of a pandemic when we’re all trying to work together at the federal, state and local level.”
In other remarks related to the pandemic:
* Hogan said it is imperative that Congress provide additional aid to cash-strapped states.
On Wednesday he and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), the NGA vice chairman, issued a joint statement urging that a $500 billion “state stabilization fund” be included in any future COVID-19 federal relief package.
“We really have to get something done,” Hogan said.
The governor said that 1.6 million state and local government workers around the country have already lost their jobs due to revenue shortfalls spawned by the drop in economic activity.
“We’re trying to provide more services to more people who really need them, with a lot less revenue. And we’re on the front lines. To cut money for testing, to say we’re not going to provide additional help for the states, it can be devastating.”
* The governor said some residents are refusing to cooperate with the state’s contact tracing program, and he pleaded with them to do so.
From mid-June to mid-July, contact tracers reached out to more than 80% of confirmed COVID cases within 24 hours — and they were able to reach 75% of the people infected during that period, the governor said.
The effort has been hampered by the number of people who don’t answer their phone or refuse to cooperate, he added.
“Not cooperating severely limits our ability to identify and contain this deadly virus. So I’m pleading with Marylanders. If you get a call from ‘MD COVID,’ we ask that you answer the call and please cooperate with the investigator.”
* Hogan said the surge in COVID cases around the country has overwhelmed the private labs that do testing, but he said a new facility at the University of Maryland Baltimore is now fully staffed and operational — “enabling us to ramp up even more of our own in-house testing, by utilizing specialized Korean machinery and cutting edge robotics.”
He said the state’s new lab can produce results in 24-48 hours. Commercial labs are currently taking 7-10 days to provide results.
Hogan said the “high-quality tests kits” that the state purchased from South Korea “continue to be the centerpiece of our long-term testing strategy,” and that “tens of thousands” of them have been used to test nursing home residents, poultry workers and people in other “hot spots.”
He warned that the backlog in private lab processing may force the state to dip into its “strategic stockpile” more quickly than anticipated. Without those delays, Hogan said, Maryland has enough tests to get through flu season and into 2021.
* Hogan said that anyone who travels to an area where COVID cases are spiking should quarantine and get tested when they return home. He said he is not ready to impose a statewide mask order, but will do so if it becomes necessary.
Despite a recent uptick in hospitalizations, the state’s other metrics are good.
Rather than reimpose restrictions on bars and indoor dining, Hogan said it is imperative that bar owners follow the rules — that all patrons be seated — and that local governments do necessary enforcement.
“Our economy is open,” he said. “But only you can keep Maryland open for business, by wearing masks and continuing to follow the public health guidelines.”
“It’s really pretty simple,” he added. “No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service.”