Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) wrote to the White House on Tuesday, asking for guidance on how to access federal laboratories for COVID-19 testing as quickly as possible.
Hogan, who announced Monday that Maryland had paid $9 million for thousands of testing kits from South Korea, wrote the letter to President Donald Trump, thanking him for offering access to the laboratories and asking for quick guidance on how to move forward.
“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. “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.”
The letter comes as governors across the country have said they lack enough materials to coordinate large-scale diagnostic and antibody testing for COVID-19.
On Monday, the Trump administration insisted that complaining governors, Hogan in particular, were not taking advantage of the full capacity of laboratories in their states to process COVID-19 tests. A map of Maryland laboratories with low testing numbers was projected in the White House briefing room.
But Hogan said on Tuesday that talk of labs was a “smoke screen,” because getting enough testing kit materials was the core issue. Accessing federal labs will now be critical to processing the state’s increased test kits, Hogan said Tuesday.
“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.
In the letter, Hogan sought to smooth over tension, thanking the administration three times.
“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. I look forward to continuing to work with you and your great team,” Hogan wrote. “Thank you once again.”
Last month, Hogan joined with Virginia Gov. Ralph S. Northam (D) and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) in asking the federal government to set up federally supported COVID-19 testing sites. That request remains outstanding.
As of Tuesday morning, Maryland had 14,193 cases of COVID-19. The state reported 68 new confirmed COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday morning, the deadliest 24-hour increase during the pandemic.
Since March, 652 Marylanders are believed to have died of the virus, including 584 confirmed cases and 68 probable cases.