Apr 29, 2020

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Coronavirus Briefing Transcript April 29

Maryland Apr 29
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsMaryland Gov. Larry Hogan Coronavirus Briefing Transcript April 29

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan held an April 29 coronavirus press conference. He announced an order for universal COVID-19 testing at nursing homes.

 

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Larry Hogan: (00:00)
Maryland has 20,849 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 985 Marylanders have lost their lives to this deadly virus. A total of 4,402 Marylanders have been hospitalized. 1,610 patients are currently hospitalized including 586 who are in intensive care. On Friday after weeks of consulting with leading scientists and public health experts, we introduced a well thought out, smart, safe and effective roadmap for the recovery of Maryland. The key numbers which we remain most focused on are and that we’re watching very closely on a day to day basis are the rate of hospitalizations and the number of patients admitted to the ICU. When we start seeing a plateauing of those metrics then that can put us in a position to begin implementing the reopening and recovery.

Larry Hogan: (01:16)
Yesterday I convened a meeting of our coronavirus recovery team, which includes some of the most respected business labor and economic leaders in the state and the nation and our coronavirus recovery team is advising us and helping guide Maryland’s reopening and recovery process. As part of this strategy, we are intensifying both containment and mitigation efforts by first, targeting and isolating outbreaks and clusters. Second, redoubling our attention and resources on hot spot areas with the highest concentration of cases. And third, mitigation to stop the spread of the virus in other areas of the state. We are no longer just playing defense. We are going on offense against this virus attacking it from every angle. With everything we’ve got. As a result of the acquisition of the half million tests from South Korea and some of our other progress. With respect to increasing the lab capacity and the supply of materials, we are exponentially expanding our testing capacity, enabling us to attack the most acute outbreaks, clusters and hotspots including nursing homes and to provide additional testing for our healthcare workers and first responders.

Larry Hogan: (02:58)
It also helps us expand and increase community-based testing like the two additional drive-through test sites at vehicle emissions inspection stations which we just opened. We now have seven of those open and operational across the state. I just completed a call with the white house, Delaware governor, John Carney, Virginia governor, Ralph Northam and 15 other governors whose states are home to meat processing plants in order to address the outbreaks of COVID-19 including at several poultry processing plants in the Delmarva region. Currently we now have at least 262 lab confirmed cases of COVID-19 associated with poultry workers in Maryland, which is one reason why the case rate per hundred thousand and Wicomico County is now the fifth highest in the state, nearly equal to Baltimore city and higher than Baltimore County. These outbreaks are not only a serious public health concern, they’re also a potential threat to Maryland’s leading agricultural industry and to our nation’s essential food supply chain. The moment I learned of outbreaks at Mountaire’s Selbyville processing plant and at a Allen Harim plant in Delaware, we knew it was going to be an issue, not just for our neighbors, but for Maryland as well. So we immediately got to work. I first raised this issue on a call with Vice President Pence on Friday who had agreed right away. To have Dr. Robert Redfield of the CDC follow up with us immediately. We warned them that any disruption or interruption to processing at our poultry processing plants could lead to significant national supply chain issues. We dispatched state epidemiologists to the effected areas to focus on testing support, contact tracing, occupational health communications and outreach, and in order to enhance our testing capability, we are opening a testing site at Perdue Stadium in Salisbury. Specifically to test the workers at the Perdue Salisbury and Amick Hurlock processing plants.

Larry Hogan: (05:45)
We quickly got our regional partners on board and Governor Carney and governor Northam joined me and sending a letter to the President detailing the urgency of the situation and requesting federal assistance. I want to thank the Trump administration, particularly Vice President Pence and Dr. Robert Redfield for responding swiftly to our request. We have deployed a Maryland incident management team to support this multi-agency and multistate operation on the Delmarva peninsula. We anticipate that a CDC team will be on the ground later tonight providing assistance. And we also requested and have been granted a designated FEMA liaison to help expedite other federal assistance. Chas Eby, the deputy executive director of the Maryland emergency management agency who is joining me here today, is spearheading this intensive effort on behalf of our state. We will continue to keep Wicomico County and Eastern Shore residents informed as this situation continues to develop. The other major issue we continue to confront are outbreaks or clusters of cases at 278 different facilities across the state. Including 4,011 confirmed cases at 143 different Maryland nursing homes where we have highly vulnerable patients. Even when best practices and care is in place. This virus may still be transmitted by asymptomatic staff, meaning that every patient interaction comes with some risk. These outbreaks account for 19% of all the total positive cases in our state, but shockingly, 46% of the deaths in Maryland are patients from nursing homes.

Larry Hogan: (08:03)
On day one of this crisis, we immediately took action and have consistently taken some of the earliest and most aggressive action in the nation in an effort to protect residents and staff of these long-term care and continuing care facilities. 50 days ago, we met with leaders of the long-term care community, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and retirement communities. We issued strict guidelines for state nursing home facilities to restrict access for visitors and staff, and called on them to implement infection control protocols. 24 days ago, we instituted an additional series of safety measures directing expedited testing for every symptomatic resident. We required the use of personal protective equipment for staff and the creation of separate quarantine and observation areas for COVID-19 patients.

Larry Hogan: (09:01)
Three weeks ago, we launched statewide strike teams composed of members of the National Guard, local and state health departments, and doctors and nurses to bring triage, emergency care, and supplies of PPE to overburdened nursing homes. We were the first state in the nation to launch such a coordinated response effort. These strike teams have already successfully responded to serious outbreaks and growing threats in 84 facilities. Two weeks ago, we augmented our Maryland strike teams with the addition of federal disaster medical assistance teams from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which are made up of physicians, nurses, paramedics, and safety officers. These elite teams bring many years of disaster response experience, and they’re tasked with conducting medical assessments of patients in skilled nursing facilities and assisting staff with testing and infection control practices.

Larry Hogan: (10:06)
Earlier this week, I pushed for even more transparency by directing the Maryland Department of Health to publish any and all available data related to nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Under normal circumstances, the health department does not publish this information because of patient privacy concerns, but we have taken this unprecedented step out of our commitment to fight these outbreaks and to provide the public with the most thorough and accurate data available in order to understand and defeat this deadly virus.

Larry Hogan: (10:43)
Today, we are taking the following additional actions to continue our aggressive efforts to target and isolate these outbreaks and clusters of cases, particularly in nursing homes. I’ve issued an executive order requiring universal testing of all residents and staff at all Maryland nursing homes, regardless of whether they are symptomatic or not. Nursing homes will be prioritized based on an imminent outbreak or a current rising threat of an outbreak.

Larry Hogan: (11:19)
Under this executive order, it will now be mandatory for all facilities to fully comply and cooperate with the strike teams which are deployed by the state. In addition, the executive order requires nursing homes to have a physician, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, or registered nurse evaluate all residents on a daily basis.

Larry Hogan: (11:43)
With our expanded universal testing, we should expect to see the number of positive cases significantly rise among both nursing home residents and staff. Any staff who tests positive will be immediately discharged into isolation, and we are requiring all these facilities to develop emergency surge staffing plans to ensure continuity of care in the event of an outbreak.

Larry Hogan: (12:15)
To aid them in this effort, today I am announcing that we are also supplementing our strike teams with newly created bridge teams, which will provide emergency clinical staffing to nursing homes that are experiencing a crisis. Each bridge team is composed of a registered nurse and five to seven aides, sufficient to care for up to 100 nursing home residents per shift. These new bridge teams include 260 registered nurses and aides who have been contracted with the Maryland Department of Health through an arrangement with Allegis and the Maryland Hospital Association. These team members are all fully vetted and are ready to be immediately deployed statewide, and are capable of providing 24-hour coverage for nursing homes in crisis.

Larry Hogan: (13:12)
This executive order also requires nursing home facilities to provide regular informational updates to their residents, resident representatives, and staff regarding COVID-19 infections. I mean, it is heart-wrenching enough that families can’t visit their loved ones, but it’s even worse when they can’t get information about what is happening inside these facilities. Nursing homes will be required to keep families informed on a regular basis.

Larry Hogan: (13:46)
While we know that the vast majority of nursing home operators are committed to providing quality care for their residents, we are increasingly concerned and, quite frankly, outraged that a few operators are not complying with directives from the state. Today, we are appointing Colonel Eric Allely, the state surgeon of the Maryland National Guard, who is up here with me today, to serve as an emergency safety and compliance officer for Maryland nursing homes. He will be charged with directing a multi-agency team to ensure compliance with state law.

Larry Hogan: (14:33)
We have been and will continue to take aggressive actions to address the spread of COVID-19 in Maryland nursing homes. Targeting and containing these outbreaks and clusters is critically important to our state’s recovery efforts.

Larry Hogan: (14:51)
I want to take just a moment to personally address every Marylander who has had difficulty dealing with the serious problems on the state unemployment insurance website. With all of the economic struggles that people are already going through, they should not have to worry about getting the resources that they need and that they deserve. Since the launch of this new website five days ago, more than 245,000 accounts have been activated and over 100,000 new claims have been filed. We have handled more claims in Maryland just in a short period of time than we did all during the entire year of 2019. This surge in claims is unprecedented, and every single state in America is struggling to keep up with this volume. The good news is that Maryland is now successfully handling an average of 33-

Larry Hogan: (16:03)
… new accounts every single minute, and an average of 780 claims are successfully filed every hour. But while we have been able to handle this volume better than many other states in the country, it is simply not good enough. The IT contractor, who developed this site, and the Department of Labor have fallen short of the high standards that we have set. And the people of Maryland deserve better, and the buck stops with me. So I am going to make sure that they do, and that we do, whatever it takes to get this straight so that every single Marylander gets every single penny of financial assistance that they deserve.

Larry Hogan: (16:57)
Lastly today, during this pandemic, our healthcare workers, including our doctors, nurses, EMTs, and first responders, have proven themselves to be not just essential workers, but frontline heroes, from managing a virus that can spread without symptoms to dealing with shortages in protective equipment, while saving people’s lives, and often while being forced to isolate themselves from their loved ones. The challenges that these heroes face are immense, unprecedented, and truly inspiring.

Larry Hogan: (17:43)
As a way for all of us to show them our appreciation and to honor them for their incredible service to our state, I am issuing a proclamation declaring this Saturday, May 2nd, as Healthcare Heroes Day in the state of Maryland. On Saturday night, we will light up the State House dome, blue, we will be lighting up Camden Yards, blue, and the M&T Bank Stadium, blue. And we are going to have a fly over of the Navy’s, Blue Angels and the Army’s, Thunderbirds. And we’re going to be asking all Marylanders to join us in lighting up the state of Maryland, blue, to show our immense gratitude to these men and women who truly are the definition of “Maryland Strong.” And may God bless each and every one of these heroes. With that, I’d be happy to take some questions.

Speaker 1: (18:44)
[inaudible 00:19:07]?

Larry Hogan: (19:06)
That’s the whole issue we’re trying to address, which is why we created the new website. Like I said, it’s frustrating to me that any one person ever has to wait. I just gave you the statistics about the hundreds of people that have filed just over a very short period of time. The system is not able to handle it. The federal system’s not able to handle it, no state in America’s handled it. I think the Florida system, they just shut it down completely. A number of states have stopped trying to process them. Ours is still running, it’s just running at 33 per minute, or whatever the number’s I just gave you. It’s not fast enough to handle the process. Waiting on the phone is why we created this brand new website. These are brand new benefits. They just came up with this a week ago.

Larry Hogan: (19:50)
They didn’t use to have these benefits for people that were not W2 employees. There never was a website in America to support this. We created a brand new one. We were one of the first states in the country to do it. It’s not good enough, but it is better than waiting for days on the phone and never having it answered, because you could have 40,000 calls coming in at the same time. Hundreds of people are being helped, but some of them are not getting the help fast enough, which is why we’re working around the clock.

Larry Hogan: (20:16)
They’ve hired hundreds of people to try to get it fixed. It frustrates the heck out of me, just like it does all those folks. But I’m a happy for the people who have gotten served, and I’m really angry that the other people have not. And we’re going to continue to try to work until it gets fixed. But it’s working a lot better than most.

Speaker 2: (20:31)
[inaudible 00:20:39]?

Larry Hogan: (20:43)
Yes. As soon as I heard that you were being denied, I told them to release it immediately, which took a day to get it done, 24 hours. But as I understand it, there are logical reasons why they were not providing the information. And most states were not providing the information, they just started to a few days earlier. It’s out of privacy concern. So some of these nursing homes, some of them are smaller, it’s patient privacy information. If you say there’s this outbreak here, people are going to find out who is there, and there were concerns, and legal issues, and privacy concerns about the patients.

Larry Hogan: (21:20)
I overrode all of that, and said, “Because of the patients and the family members right to know, we ought to put the information out there.” There was some argument, internally, about whether I was right or not, but I made sure that they got the information out.

Speaker 2: (21:35)
[inaudible 00:21:41]?

Larry Hogan: (22:02)
The plan that we laid out, last week, did not talk of it, about a 14-day straight decline. That’s what the president’s plan called for. Most people are completely ignoring that and opening up, anyway. Our plan called for 14 days of a pattern of plateauing out, or flattening. We were starting to see that, we’ve seen a couple of days go up. If it comes back down, we’re not going to restart the clock. If we don’t continue to see a spike up, we’re going to be in a good position to continue to make progress.

Larry Hogan: (22:32)
It doesn’t have to be 14 consecutive days of going down. And, again, it’s not on the cases, we’re watching those hospitalizations and ICUs. We have some slight upticks for a day or two, but it’s not shooting up. And we’re still hopeful that we can level off and that we can still move forward.

Speaker 2: (22:54)
[inaudible 00:06:52]?

Larry Hogan: (22:54)
On Friday, when we launched our plan, I said I was hopeful that we could start to take a look at this in early May if the numbers were looking encouraging. Next week is early May, and, hopefully, we’re going to come back and talk with you after we’ve had a chance to look at those numbers, into next week.

Speaker 3: (23:07)
[inaudible 00:23:17]?

Larry Hogan: (23:25)
Yeah, I just addressed all of that in my remarks. They’re going to prioritize, first, on the outbreaks, and clusters, and nursing homes, and those things like the stuff in Salisbury, these are clusters and outbreaks, and on first responders and healthcare workers, and then the hotspots of the communities, where we have the most issues. So we’re going to work through all of those in a prioritization, just like I described.

Speaker 4: (23:52)
[inaudible 00:08:02]?

Larry Hogan: (24:02)
I’m sorry, I didn’t follow that question.

Audience: (24:03)
So [inaudible 00:24:17] government for meat packers, is that [inaudible 00:24:17] money or is it assistance or [inaudible 00:24:16]?

Larry Hogan: (24:18)
CDT. We’re taking the lead and we’re working with our partners in Delaware and Virginia because these poultry workers, while there was an outbreak in a Delaware plant, many of those workers live in Maryland. We also have the potential of infecting and having problems at our two plants in Maryland and there are also plants in Virginia. That whole Delmarva Peninsula is interconnected and we’re all working together. All the states are working together. CDC really is jumping in to help us with whatever assistance they possibly can. They’ve been extremely helpful. It’s not so much money, but providing some boots on the ground and some assistance to help us with just getting control of the situation with all the …

Audience: (25:04)
[inaudible 00:01:05].

Larry Hogan: (25:07)
It’s not about stimulus money, but I’m sure we will be looking for federal assistance and that’s why we now have the FEMA representative and the CDC representatives that’ll be on the ground with us.

Audience: (25:15)
[inaudible 00:25:15] can you explain … you touched on [inaudible 00:25:30] industry affect the national supply chain. Can you explain what initiatives of the national food supply [inaudible 00:25:27]?

Larry Hogan: (25:30)
Our first concern was the health and safety of all of the workers that are in Maryland. Then our second concern was about all of our poultry farmers across the Eastern shore and then all the health and livelihood of this major industry in Maryland, which is our number one agricultural product. And then the broader issue which we had a discussion on with the 18 governors, with the vice president and the agriculture secretary and labor secretary and CDC director just before I came out to see you was about meat industry in general. So there were pork producers and beef producers and poultry producing states on those calls with their Ag secretaries and some of the state leaders and with the federal leaders talking about a breakdown in the food supply chain if we have some serious outbreaks and we can’t keep those … The president yesterday issued a directive about trying to make sure we keep these plants open because we’ve got to feed the people in America. So our priority is to make sure we keep these workers safe and we keep those plants open so we can keep people fed.

Audience: (26:45)
[inaudible 00:26:45] the company that’s handling the [inaudible 00:26:56] website is doing such a terrible job [inaudible 00:26:55].

Larry Hogan: (26:57)
On the tests from Korea, we do the approval of the FDA. The FDA signed off on the states making their own decisions. On a call last week with the vice president, I thanked them for the FDA administrator, Steve Hahn, for signing off on our flight from Korea and then thanked him directly. And he thanked us for thanking him. The President, the FDA made a decision that states could use their own approvals instead of going through a long cumbersome FDA process. So they waived the requirement of going through that. So we do have the ability to move forward on those tests. That was an inaccurate and false, misleading story that came out yesterday. We are using the test. There’s no other further approvals that are needed from FDA. And so that’s just not factual.

Larry Hogan: (27:45)
The federal government has actually purchased, also, 750,000 tests from Korea now too, by the way. So there isn’t an issue with the Korean tests. But with respect to the website, I know that there aren’t very many people … Nobody’s ever created one of these before. It’s a brand new thing and we’re very frustrated that they haven’t got it fixed. But they’re working around the clock to fix it. Whether it makes sense to bring in a new contractor, they’d have to start from scratch. A couple of other states shut their entire thing down and started from scratch so they’re still not open. Ours is processing a couple of hundred thousand people, even though it’s slow. I’m not sure shutting it all down and starting over is a better solution so we’re going to try to work through it.

Audience: (28:29)
[inaudible 00:28:29] sports. When is that going to happen?

Larry Hogan: (28:34)
Well, we laid out a very detailed plan on Friday about how we’re going to go through that.

Larry Hogan: (28:48)
It’s actually 46 but …

Audience: (28:49)
[inaudible 00:28:52].

Larry Hogan: (28:53)
I’m not really good at math either, but they give me the stats.

Audience: (28:54)
At any rate, given the amount of [inaudible 00:28:55] strategy [inaudible 00:29:06]?

Larry Hogan: (29:11)
Well that’s what I announced today and that we have had a strategy that has been focused on nursing homes. It started 50 days ago. The whole first half of my discussion was about all the actions we’ve taken over the past 50 days on nursing homes. I think I laid out about 20 other things we’re going to do as of today on nursing homes, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have issues across the rest of the state.

Speaker 5: (29:33)
Last question.

Audience: (29:36)
[inaudible 00:29:36] tests [inaudible 00:29:44].

Larry Hogan: (29:52)
I had a discussion. I had two conversations with County Executive Alsobrooks last week. Once was at Laurel Hospital where we talked about the tests. Once was on a call with the rest of the County leaders. I told her … As soon as we got the tests, everybody’s like, “Hey, can we have a hundred thousand of those tests? Can you just ship them over?” I explained it’s not that simple.

Larry Hogan: (30:08)
First of all, the state is going to maintain those tests. We’re not going to just send them off to people. There’s about a nine step process that requires swabs and reagents and the lab capacity and we’re going to prioritize the use of them as I just laid out to Avita and in my remarks about how we’re going to use them. But we are going to be using them in those testing centers.

Larry Hogan: (30:27)
Prince George’s County were the first ones that we set up. We’re doing more testing in Prince George’s County than anywhere else. It is a hotspot. It will be on that list after we also go through those nursing homes where we’re testing now everybody in every nursing home, where we go through the outbreaks, the clusters, and some of these other issues that I dealt with and deal with: healthcare workers and the first responders. Prince George’s County will certainly be at the top of the list of where some of the community testing is going to be done, has been done, will continue to be done, both with those tests and the other tests that we’re getting.

Audience: (30:59)
Thank you.

Larry Hogan: (30:59)
Yep. Thank you. (silence)