Apr 20, 2020
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Coronavirus Briefing Transcript April 20
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan held an April 20 coronavirus press conference. He said Maryland received 500,000 tests from South Korea. Read the full transcript here.
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Larry Hogan: (00:00)
We’ve been quietly working for a number of weeks on a confidential project called Operation Enduring Friendship. And on Saturday, the First Lady and I stood on the tarmac at BWI Airport to welcome the first ever Korean Air passenger plane, a Boeing 777, which had no passengers, but which was carrying a very important payload of LabGun COVID-19 PCR test kits from a South Korean company called LabGenomics. Which will now give Maryland the capability of performing a half a million coronavirus tests.
Larry Hogan: (00:51)
The 500,000 test capacity which we have just acquired is equal to the total amount of testing which has been completed by four of the top five states in America combined. Operation Enduring Friendship was launched on Saturday, March 28th, when I asked my wife Yumi to join me on a call with Korea’s ambassador to the United States, Lee Soo Hyuk.
Larry Hogan: (01:29)
We spoke of the special relationship between Maryland and the Republic of Korea, and we made a personal plea in Korean asking for their assistance. 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.
Larry Hogan: (02:06)
We convened countless calls nearly every night. Sometimes it seemed like all night, working through language barriers and a 13 hour time difference. And at the last minute, we then navigated clearances across multiple US agencies including the FDA, the USDA and customs and border patrol. In order to complete this incredible mission for the people of Maryland.
Larry Hogan: (02:40)
I want to sincerely thank our Korean partners for assisting us in our fight against this common hidden enemy [foreign language 00:02:53] Each part of this international collaboration was unprecedented, from identifying and vetting the Korean testing company and getting the scientists in our labs to work through all of the technical details with the teams in Korea, to the complexities of the international procurement contracts and processes, to figuring out intricate logistics solutions like arranging the first ever Korean Air flight from Korea to land at BWI.
Larry Hogan: (03:30)
It really was an amazing team effort. And I want to personally thank President Moon Jae-in, Prime Minister Chung, Ambassador Lee, and Prime Minister Hong, the Director for Public Diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who is here representing the Republic of Korea today, and who was there with us at BWI on Saturday. I also want to thank LabGenomics who developed and produced the tests, Samsung SDS for the logistical support, Korea Air for this very special charter flight, to Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency, John S. Connor global logistics, and our entire Operation Enduring Friendship team here in Maryland. Especially Roy McGrath, director of the MES who spearheaded our efforts, along with secretary Ellington Churchill and the Department of General Services, Deputy Secretary Fran Phillips and the Maryland Department of Health, secretary Greg Slater and the Maryland Department of Transportation, Ricky Smith and the Maryland Aviation Administration, Major General Tim Gowan of the Maryland National Guard, Colonel Jerry Jones and the Maryland State Police, Budget Secretary David Brinkley and the Department of Budget and management.
Larry Hogan: (05:05)
And I want to give a special thanks to [Sue Coo 00:05:08] from the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives, who stayed awake many nights assisting us with communications, and who served as our lead translator throughout this entire process. I’d also like to thank our federal partners here in the US for their cooperation. But most importantly, I want to thank Maryland’s First Lady, my wife Yumi. She truly is a champion of this Operation Enduring Freedom. You may know her as the first Asian First Lady of Maryland, but she’s also the very first Korean American first lady of state in the history of the United States. And it’s why we have, and we’re so proud to have a such a special bond with South Korea.
Larry Hogan: (06:08)
In February, the First Lady and I worked with ambassador Lee to arrange for a reception at the ambassador’s residence in Washington during the NGA annual winter meeting. It was the first time that America’s governors had all gathered together at the Korean ambassador’s residence, and it was a special surprise for us when President Moon appeared on a video screen to recognize our special partnership. And he said he was so proud of my wife, and he said that they considered me as a [foreign language 00:06:52], which means a son-in-law to the Korean people. And I considered it quite an honor for him to say that that night, but I had no idea just how much that that would truly come to mean these two very long months later.
Larry Hogan: (07:15)
Later this week we will be introducing our Maryland Strong Roadmap to Recovery. This recovery plan has four building blocks, including a robust contact tracing operation, increasing our supply of PPE, and increasing our hospital surge capacity. And our team has been making significant progress on each and every one of these criteria.
Larry Hogan: (07:45)
But the most critical part of both our recovery plan for Maryland and the reopening guidelines that the president introduced on Thursday is the capability to do widespread testing. The incredible success of Operation Enduring Friendship has not only put us on track to achieve that goal, but it literally will help save the lives of thousands of Marylanders.
Larry Hogan: (08:18)
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Korean war. And my wife often says that she would not be here if it were not for the dedication and the sacrifice of the brave Americans who fought for the freedom of South Korea. And she and President Moon have both talked about the incredible debt of gratitude that South Korea feels toward the American people. Let me just say that after Operation Enduring Friendship, the state of Maryland owes an incredible debt of gratitude to the people of South Korea. [foreign language 00:09:09]
Larry Hogan: (09:11)
As Maryland begins its reopening and recovery, Marylanders should feel confident knowing that we have done everything in our power, gone to every length and used every tool and every resource at our disposal to defeat this deadly virus. May God bless the great state of Maryland, the Republic of Korea, and the United States of America. With that, I’d be happy to take a few questions. Yes.
Speaker 2: (09:51)
Governor, we have half a million tests now. What are we going to do with them?
Larry Hogan: (09:51)
Well, so this is the first step. There’s still a whole lot of work to be done, but it puts us in a tremendous position. The Health Department can probably talk in greater detail about that, but it sets us up to be able to spread these out across the state, work with different labs and to utilize them in many different ways. This is still a part of our testing process. We have many different tests that we’re working on, but it’ll enable us to identify those who are sick and those who have the virus, so it could help us isolate and do our contract tracing and keep people safe all across the state, and help us with our reopening.
Speaker 2: (10:26)
When do you think [inaudible 00:10:27] when will they start making their way out?
Larry Hogan: (10:29)
We’re going to start right away, but it’s going to take a while to go through all of those and ramp it up, but immediately is when it’s going to start. We’ve already done all the protocols and done the testing, and the labs have been working together so it’s going to… This is a longterm testing strategy, and this capability is going to take a while, and it’s going to help us continue for many months to come. But we’re going to start right away.
Speaker 3: (10:48)
Governor, how much does each test cost? Will this flatten the curve, demolish the curve, and how quick is the turnaround on it?
Larry Hogan: (10:55)
Well, we’re very pleased that we have been flattening the curve. It’s a little bit why we’re behind, a couple of weeks behind everybody else, and why our numbers aren’t as high as other places. But when you flatten the curve, you also lengthen the time frame. So it’s going to take a while, but I don’t know if it’s going to demolish the curve, but it certainly is going to enable us to open in a much safer way, and to help us to protect a lot of folks. I believe the cost is about $9 million for these tests, as you know, we announced about a week ago that we potentially might lose $2.8 billion by July 1st in revenue, so $9 million to try to keep hundreds of thousands of people safe and protect thousands of lives and to get our economy back on track, it seems like a pretty worthwhile investment.
Speaker 3: (11:39)
Governor, are these tests [inaudible 00:11:40] right away, or do we still need two steps and things like that?
Larry Hogan: (11:44)
That’s a great question. They don’t have everything that’s needed. It’s a very complex set of things that goes into the testing. So you need the lab capability, you need the swabs, you need the reagents, and they all have to kind of work together. As I understand it, there’s about nine steps involved in the process. A couple of these steps we’ve contracted with and have received from the two companies in Korea. Other things we have acquired, and/or are acquiring from the federal government and from other sources here in the US. But it’s going to take a while to ramp up all of the things that we need to utilize all of the tests.
Speaker 4: (12:24)
Governor, [inaudible 00:12:24] days of diplomacy and negotiations, were you competing against other federal or state entities? Do you have any sense of what that did to [inaudible 00:12:34]
Larry Hogan: (12:35)
No, I think that the federal government, President Trump had talked with President Moon about a federal supply, but I don’t think, to my knowledge they were not negotiating with any other states.
Speaker 5: (12:46)
[crosstalk 00:12:46] Maryland, when it comes to working with the other regions [inaudible 00:13:00]
Larry Hogan: (13:00)
Well, we’ve been… We had a great conversation, I think Friday, with Governor Northam and Mayor Bowzer, we’re all working together, everybody. All of our numbers, we’re watching and hoping to see that downward trend. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re all going to work together. When we start to see the numbers go down, when we’ve got all those other things ready, then we’ll… We’re all anxious to get our economies opened up as soon as we possibly can, if we can do it in a safe way. And we’re going to do so in cooperation with our neighbors.
Speaker 6: (13:28)
Governor, is it possible [inaudible 00:13:32]
Larry Hogan: (13:34)
It’s possible. It’s one of the things that we’ll be discussing later in the week. You know, if you look at… You could possibly do things in different regions or different parts of the state, but what we don’t want us to have one place open, everybody rushes over there and then infects that county. So there’s a lot of thought that goes into that. Certain areas don’t have as bad of an infection rate. It may be because they haven’t done enough testing, or you know, what we don’t want us to have the neighbor next door come over if you open up everything, and then they’re going to be flooded with more infected folks.
Speaker 7: (14:04)
Governor Hogan, you had said previously 10,000 tests a day [inaudible 00:14:09]
Larry Hogan: (14:21)
So as I pointed out, this half a million tests is more than the four of the top five states in America have done so far in the entire COVID-19 crisis. So it’s a huge, huge step in the right direction. It’s not the end of it, though. We’re still searching. I mean, we’ve got another 40,000 tests last week. We’re working on multiple different kinds of tests for different reasons, and we’re going to continue our efforts in all those. This is not the end of the process at all. And we’re going to try to be able to be in a position to test as much as possible. We’ve ramped up our labs, we’re continuing to ramp up the lab capability. 10,000 was a very aggressive goal, but my… And they’re going to get mad at me for saying this, but I think I’m going to try to blow through that and do maybe 200% of what their aggressive goal was, and try to get up to 20,000 tests a day. [inaudible 00:15:10]
Speaker 8: (15:09)
Governor, have you been speaking with any Senate Republicans about a national approach to testing, and if so, [inaudible 00:15:18].
Larry Hogan: (15:22)
So I’ve had discussions with leaders in Congress, in both the house and the Senate, both Republicans and Democrats, about lots of different issues. Including, we had successful negotiations over the weekend regarding a compromise that I hope is going to take place in the next day or so where we can move forward on all of the funding on the 3.5 CARES Act funding to come out, to get the PPP, get their small business money out and help the hospitals. The president committed to our request for $500 billion to the states last night, and are in a phase four, which is quite an accomplishment. There’s a bipartisan bill in the Senate to do just that with Republicans and Democrats. There’s been discussions about testing and how important that is with folks in Congress on both sides of the aisle, but I’m not really at liberty to share a lot of the details of those discussions.
Speaker 9: (16:16)
Governor, can you tell us how the meeting today went with the White House? Apparently, Mike Pence had said something about the possibility of doubling testing to see [inaudible 00:16:26]
Larry Hogan: (16:31)
It was a good meeting. The vice president, the coronavirus team was laying out, it was mostly an update. They gave us a detail on all of the… A list of all the labs that are in our state, in each of the States. We already knew where the labs were. Most of the ones on that list were actually federal labs, and they said these are labs in your state, but they were NIH and FDA and Fort Dietrich and things like that. So I pointed that out to the vice president. We’ve been pushing to get NIH to help us with testing for more than a month now, but it was a productive meeting overall, that we had the updates from members of the team about some of progress they were making on swabs and reagents and a couple of things.
Larry Hogan: (17:23)
And I thanked the vice president on behalf of the governors for helping to agree to support the states in the next funding bill. I thank them for some of the progress that they’ve made over the past couple of weeks, and I pushed to get the treasury secretary to respond to the governors with respect to flexibility of spending on the previous funding bill, which we were expecting by the end of next week. And he promised to get that done by the end of today.
Speaker 10: (17:51)
[inaudible 00:17:51] why you were able to accomplish something that the federal government [inaudible 00:18:02]
Larry Hogan: (18:02)
Well, I can’t really… I don’t want to speculate about why, but the federal government has been trying, and has been helping with some of these things. They’ve now instituted the Defense Production Act, which we pushed for, NGA did, along with some leaders in Congress. They’re now using that to produce more swabs, which everybody’s short of. They used it for ventilators, which we’ve made progress on. But why we haven’t made more progress on testing, I’m not sure. But the administration made it clear over and over again, they want the states to take the lead, and we have to go out and do it ourselves. And so that’s exactly what we did.
Speaker 11: (18:40)
[crosstalk 00:18:40] been some other states that have been concerned about the federal government intercepting some of their supplies and the things that they’ve ordered. Is that a concern for you, and if so, how did you negotiate that?
Larry Hogan: (18:51)
It was a concern for us, and we were just happy to have successfully landed that plane up to BWI, and I don’t want to get into all the details of how that came about. But that was a big part of our concern.
Speaker 14: (19:02)
Larry Hogan: (19:02)
Thank you. Thank you.