Jun 4, 2020
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Press Conference Transcript June 3
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan held a June 3 press conference. He addressed the George Floyd protests, announced Maryland would enter stage 2 of the coronavirus recovery plan. Full news briefing speech transcript here.
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Larry Hogan: (00:00)
Good afternoon. I’m here today to discuss the progress on our coronavirus recovery plans. But I want to begin by taking a moment to address the senseless murder of George Floyd, which has served as yet another reminder that we still have a long way to go to live up to our nation’s highest ideals. In recent days, protests have been held in cities across America, including in Baltimore City, where thousands of young people and community leaders have expressed their frustrations peacefully, while working together with law enforcement to stand up to and help stop a small group of people with a violent agenda. One Baltimore activists said, we won’t let outside agitators tell the story of Baltimore. I’m incredibly proud that during this difficult time, the people of Baltimore City have set an example for the rest of America. And I want to thank Mayor Jackie Young, Commissioner Harrison, the Baltimore City Police Department, the Maryland State Police, the MTA and MDTA police, along with the citizen soldiers of the Maryland National Guard. But most importantly, I want to thank the residents of Baltimore who are showing the power of a strong, compassionate, and united community.
Larry Hogan: (02:08)
But even as Marylanders gathered to peacefully protest, I want to reiterate to those participating in these events, that it’s still important to continue to take precautions, to reduce the risks of spreading the coronavirus. We continue to make great progress, but we are not out of the woods yet. I also want to take a moment to address what we saw yesterday and over the past few weeks from these board of elections regarding the problems with the primary election and the fact that thousands of Marylanders either did not receive their ballots or received erroneous or late ballots. All of this is completely unacceptable. The most basic responsibility of the SBE is ensuring that free and fair elections are conducted accurately. And there were obviously significant failures. There are questions that need to be answered, which is why we are calling on the SBE administrator for a full and complete report to me, the Board of Public Works, secretary of state, the presiding officers of the Maryland General Assembly and to the public, no later than July 3rd.
Larry Hogan: (03:43)
I’m also requesting that the Maryland General Assembly immediately begin oversight hearings to determine what caused the failures and how they can be corrected. And I want to assure you that we’re going to take whatever actions are necessary to make sure that those who are responsible, correct these problems in order to safeguard our democratic process and ensure that our November election is free of these failures and these issues. And now I’d like to turn to our state’s continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of today, Maryland has conducted 380,716 COVID-19 tests, including 14,385 in just the last 24 hours, which is well above our short term goal of 10,000 tests per day.
Larry Hogan: (04:52)
In May, we increased testing 117% over the month of April. And by the end of this week, we will exceed 400,000 tests. In March, after we had our first COVID-19 cases break out here in Maryland, we had the ability to conduct just 50 tests per day. At that time and throughout all of March and April, there were no significant quantities of COVID- 19 test kits available anywhere in the United States. The federal government made it clear early on that they had no tests, no real testing strategy, and that states were on their own when it came to acquiring test kits and all of the various necessary components needed to expand testing capacity. States have been forced to compete against each other, the federal government and other countries out of need and at times even desperation to procure tests and testing supplies from every domestic producer in the United States and from sources all around the globe.
Larry Hogan: (06:19)
44 days ago, I announced that we had taken the unprecedented action of acquiring 500,000 tests from South Korea, which ensured that we would have a sustainable long term supply of coronavirus tests. As I announced on that day, when we first acquired these crucial tests, I said that they were a part of a long term strategy and just the one vital component of a complex nine step process, which would also include things such as nasal swabs, viral transport media, platform specific reagents, specialized RNA extraction kits, and sufficient clinical lab capacity among other things.
Larry Hogan: (07:15)
As chairman of the National Governors Association, I led the fight to push for more federal assistance on all of these things, including pushing to invoke the Defense Production Act to produce more swabs and testing supplies. We were also able to procure and even create our own supply of swabs using 3D printer technology along with many other necessary components and resources, enough that we could also share them with local jurisdictions. To boost our resources further and to overcome the global supply chain challenges, scientists at our state’s public health laboratory, even began making their own tubes of viral transport media and are now able to produce 10,000 tubes per week. One of our biggest challenges in this multi-step, multifaceted process was acquiring the necessary lab capacity. And although the White House publicly offered the use of federal labs after several months of effort, the reality is that we still have not been able to access any of them. Thankfully, we are very far along on an ambitious and far reaching partnership that I announced in April with the University of Maryland, Baltimore School of Medicine, their institute for genome sciences to convert a powerful-
Larry Hogan: (09:03)
… research lab into a full scale clinical testing lab, which would utilize specialized Korean machinery and cutting edge robotics, scaling up its workforce and expanding its IT and logistics capabilities to run these tests at a high volume. Today I’m happy to announce that this lab is fully operational and able to process tests many weeks ahead of schedule. This lab will be the backbone of our sustained longterm testing strategy.
Larry Hogan: (09:44)
Many experts are predicting a second wave or a surge this fall. And we obviously already have enough test in Maryland for our short term needs. But many states are very concerned about testing shortages again this fall not just because of a potential spike, but because as the normal flu season begins, the demand for COVID test will skyrocket as people are suffering flu like symptoms. We are and will continue to be much better positioned for that than almost any other state and our strategic stockpile of tests and our successful long term strategy will ensure that we have a strong and fully functioning supply of tests until such time as there is a vaccine.
Larry Hogan: (10:47)
This new signature testing lab right here in our state with our solid foundation of equipment platforms, experts, scientists and a strong investment by the state, will continue to put Maryland in a unique position to confront this pandemic. And I want to thank our partners at the Institute for Genome Sciences for their incredible efforts over the past few weeks to get this lab up and running so quickly. All of this success on our short term and longterm testing strategies, which are the key building blocks enabled us to see downward trends in all of the key metrics since announcing stage one of our recovery plan, we have seen Maryland’s COVID-19 positivity rate dropped to single digits.
Larry Hogan: (11:43)
Our statewide positivity rate is now 9.5%, which is down nearly 65% since its peak 48 days ago on April 17th when we were at 26.91%. The positivity rate in Baltimore city is now down nearly 64% from a high of 27.38 on April 19th to 9.9 today. Baltimore County is at 8.7%, Frederick County 9.4, Howard County is at 8.8% and Anne Arundel County at 8.6, all of them are below the state average. Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, which are still above the rest of the state with respect to positivity are continuing to see dramatic improvements. The positivity in Prince George’s County has dropped by more than 66% from a high of 41.96 on May 2nd to a current rate of 14.1%. And Montgomery County has also dropped by more than 62% from a high of 32.64% to now 12.3%.
Larry Hogan: (13:06)
As a threshold for entering stage two, CDC guidelines call for a downward trajectory in the positivity rate below 15% for 14 days after entering stage one. Maryland has now been below the 15% positivity mark for 14 straight days. Total hospitalizations in Maryland, one of the other key metrics for recovery are at their lowest level in 50 days. And the number of patients in ICU continues to plateau and is at its lowest level since April 17th. Our testing capacity, the drop in positivity, hospitalizations and ICU beds and all of these metrics allow us to now safely begin stage two of our roadmap to recovery and to take more steps that are critical for getting our economy back on track and getting more Marylanders back to work. Effective at five o’clock on Friday, June 5th, we will be lifting the order requiring the closure of non-essential businesses.
Larry Hogan: (14:27)
The list of Maryland businesses that are open is now much, much longer than the list of those few, which will have to remain closed a little while longer. Manufacturing, construction, large and small retail shops, specialty vendors, wholesalers, warehouses, and offices, including information technology firms, legal offices, accounting banking, financial institutions, insurance agencies, design studios, advertising and architectural firms and media production companies will all be open and operational in Maryland. Real estate offices, travel agencies, auto dealer showrooms, bank branches, and various other businesses and offices can all safely reopen with public health and safety guidance recommendations in place.
Larry Hogan: (15:25)
Personal services such as nail salons and tanning salons may also reopen at 50% capacity by appointment only with strict safety protocols. For all businesses, face coverings are encouraged whenever face to face interaction takes place. Businesses are encouraged to implement a screening process, including temperature checks for personnel based on CDC and health department guidance. Businesses are also strongly encouraged to develop plans which limit the proximity of employees by rotating employee hours, instituting split schedules, shifts, shorter work weeks or staggering start break, or shift times.
Larry Hogan: (16:16)
While we are excited to get much of our economy restarted, I want to be very clear. Just because Marylanders can return to the office doesn’t mean that they should and employees who can telework should continue teleworking whenever possible and safety must remain a top priority for every single business in our state. No worker wants to give this virus to his or her coworkers and no employer wants an outbreak at his or her workplace. Additionally, starting Monday, June 8th state government will begin returning to more normal operations and the NBA and other customer facing agencies will begin a phased reopening of select branches to customers on a limited basis by appointment only with staff wearing face coverings and with plexiglass dividers at each station. With more Marylanders going back to work, we will also begin gradually returning to more normal transit schedules. And the Maryland state department of education will continue with its plan to reopen childcare centers to ensure that there are more spots available to more and more parents that are returning to the workforce. Looking ahead, as we move forward on our safe and gradual roadmap to recovery.
Larry Hogan: (18:03)
If we continue to see these really encouraging trends that we are currently experiencing, our next step likely coinciding with the end of the school year, will be to consider opening some additional outdoor amusement, fitness, sporting and other summertime activities.
Larry Hogan: (18:29)
I want to thank the thousands of businesses that have already safely reopened under stage one, especially those that have taken the Maryland Strong back to business pledge seriously and displayed it on their storefronts and their places of business in order to assure their employees, customers and the public that they are putting safety first. By enforcing physical distancing, masking, sanitation and adhering to the CDC guidelines and state health department guidelines. All of the businesses opening at stage two are strongly encouraged to follow this as well.
Larry Hogan: (19:14)
I want to remind Marylanders once again, that the Maryland Strong Roadmap to Recovery is based on the flexible community based approach, which was requested by county leaders. As of this week, all 24 jurisdictions have begun stage one of the recovery and as of this Friday at 5:00, all counties will also be able to enter stage two at their discretion. I also want to continue to remind the people of Maryland that moving into stage two does not mean that this crisis is behind us or that we can afford to stop being vigilant and cautious.
Larry Hogan: (20:05)
All Marylanders, particularly those older and more vulnerable populations, are advised to continue staying home whenever possible. Employers should continue to encourage telework for their employees when possible. And Marylanders should also continue practicing physical distancing, staying six feet apart and avoiding crowds and close gatherings. Moving into stage two is an important step forward for our state after what has been a very difficult period and the people of our great state have endured so many significant personal, medical and economic challenges, but in the face of the most daunting challenge of our lifetime, the people of Maryland have been resilient, they have never lost hope and they are showing what it truly means to be Maryland Strong.
Larry Hogan: (21:10)
With that, I’d be happy to take your questions.
Speaker 2: (21:12)
Governor, Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford said that they should seek new leadership without the state board of elections. Do you agree with that sentiment and with all of the protest the past few days, should people who’ve attended these protests get a Coronavirus test?
Larry Hogan: (21:27)
That’s a pretty diverse question, but-
Speaker 2: (21:29)
You won’t hear from me for the rest of the day.
Larry Hogan: (21:36)
Let’s pretend like that’s two questions. On the first one, I was pretty clear that we need to get to the bottom of the problems at the State Board of Elections. I agree that there were obviously, there was a serious lack of leadership and tremendous problems that took place, serious failures, which is why I’ve asked for this report. I asked the legislature to look into it and it’s probably something we have to seriously consider.
Larry Hogan: (22:05)
The second part of the question. I’m glad you asked that. I believe that people that have been, while I’m glad that people are able to freely express their frustrations and to get out and protest and it’s been encouraging to see the peaceful protest in Baltimore, I am concerned that so many people are gathered closely together and we have free Coronavirus testing widely available in every jurisdiction and I would encourage people that if you were in close proximity with a whole lot of people, that you should take advantage of that and get one of these available tests. And I’d also encourage, particularly a lot of young people that are out there in that crowd, to just be careful. I wouldn’t be hugging grandma until you get that test.
Speaker 3: (22:57)
Governor, following up on a question here about calling for the stepping down of the Baltimore Political Chief and the State Chief, if I’m hearing you correctly, you agree that they should step down particularly, why? What was so egregious to you that makes you believe that they should step down?
Larry Hogan: (23:16)
Well, so first of all, the State Elections Administrator used to serve at the pleasure of the State Board of Elections and the legislature changed that law. So, she doesn’t report to the governor or the legislature or the state board of elections. No one really has the ability to really fire her. It was a terrible mistake. This happened during Ehrlich administration. When a governor is elected, the party changes forever. It was three Democrats and two Republicans when Bob Ehrlich came in, it was three Republicans and two Democrats and they weren’t happy with Linda Lamone 18 year ago. They took a vote to remove her and Mike Miller pushed the bill and changed the law so that she could not be removed. That law is still in place. So, if the legislature finds wrongdoing, failures, problems, then I would encourage them to go back and change the law so that the State Board of Elections can decide what to do about the administrator.
Speaker 4: (24:23)
Now back to the protests. You mentioned the National Guard involved in New York. In DC, there’ve been a lot of protest this weekend, a lot of controversy about the use of the National Guard. What precisely did you authorize the National Guard to do? How many did you send? What did you want them to do? What did you approve?
Larry Hogan: (24:42)
Right. So, the Secretary of Defense called me directly and asked, he did not want to utilize the military and I agree with that. I’m very much opposed to calling up the active duty military, but they asked if we would … We have 1300 members of the Maryland National Guard called up already, they’ve been serving for two months, these citizen soldiers providing Coronavirus tests, feeding meals to kids and providing all kinds of terrific work for our citizens. They asked if there was a specific mission, specific thing that they would. Had nothing to do with the things that took place the other night. It was after that. They went in the next day with a very specific mission to fill in for the park service. And these are the guys who I think were providing Coronavirus tests. They’re now guarding our Nation’s monuments or are patrolling our monuments. So, I think they were at the Lincoln Memorial, this beautiful iconic facility. I think they were there last night and just standing at the monuments. They were not involved in the altercation that took place the other night.
Speaker 5: (25:56)
What did Mayor Bowser have say to you about this after she reached out?
Larry Hogan: (26:01)
Yeah. So, Mayor Bowser not being a governor, has no control over the National Guard, but we did reach out to her office and she approved of that mission.
Speaker 2: (26:11)
Governor, in regards to what some people have seen in recent events, police and community relations, and you’re very supportive of the police. What do you see, sir, could be an improvement to strengthen community as a group?
Larry Hogan: (26:27)
I’ll tell you, I started my remarks off by saying, if you see the improvements in the community relations, particularly in Baltimore City with the police, if you saw the other night where citizens of Baltimore were dragging these outside agitators over to the police saying, please arrest them, lock them up. That’s quite a bit of trust that when you saw the community leaders leading the peaceful protests, telling people it’s time to go home and telling the bad folks don’t do that, don’t break down those barricades, don’t throw those rocks. We’re one of the only cities in America-
Larry Hogan: (27:03)
… that didn’t have lots of violence, looting and burning, and it was because the police and the community leaders and the protestors were working together very, very well and I think that’s a great sign.
Speaker 6: (27:16)
Would you support legislation to make it easier to get rid of bad cops and make disciplinary records more transparent?
Larry Hogan: (27:23)
I think the speaker has announced that she’s going to put together a task force to look into those kinds of things and I’d be certainly more than happy to take a look at whatever recommendations they have.
Speaker 7: (27:33)
Governor Hogan, I just wanted to get back to the DC issue and the National Guard troops. Do you consider using pepper spray to disperse a peaceful crowd for a photo op, do you consider that an abuse of power?
Larry Hogan: (27:49)
It’s certainly the opposite of the approach that we have taken. If you look at two different cities, two different approaches, I think it was almost the complete opposite, and it’s not something that we would have done. If you look at what happened in Baltimore the other night, it was almost the exact opposite of that. We had the National Guard there. We had three state police agencies there. We had great cooperation with the city police and they were working with the protesters. The protesters, there was thousands of people protesting peacefully, and they stayed till about 1:30 in the morning, but we had no altercations with the police and no violence, and every governor in America is asking me how we did that, so I think our approach is better. I think we learned a lot of lessons. I think we wrote the book on how to deal with these things in 2015, now it’s even better and I wouldn’t certainly have taken that approach.
Speaker 8: (28:42)
Governor, you mentioned the possibility of a second surge. Your health department official legislators today if there’s a possibility of a second, third, and fourth wave. What kind of spikes are you looking for over a sustained period that would trigger rolling back some of these restrictions that you’re easing today and the last couple of weeks?
Larry Hogan: (29:02)
Well, I don’t know. That’s something our coronavirus team meets every single day, our health department meets every day, these metrics. All of these things are on our website and they’re watching them daily. I can tell you that there was, about a week ago, we had a two day tiny, little jump in our hospitalizations, for two days and it caused great concern. We stopped. We all said, “Hey, what’s going on here?” And then it immediately started dropping again, so that’s how close they were watching things but the trends have all been unbelievable. Two days doesn’t make a trend so we look at 14 day trends and 7 day trends but we’re going to watch it very closely. All the experts have said, “We’ve dampened the curve. We’ve flattened the curve,” but the virus is still there, and it’s still out there, and until we get a vaccine, we’re going to have to be vigilant and you can’t guarantee that a spike won’t happen and multiple times.
Speaker 9: (29:58)
Governor, I just wanted to clarify. You said, “Our national guard troops were guarding the Lincoln Memorial,” so all the pictures that…
Larry Hogan: (30:06)
I think it’s not just the Lincoln Memorial. I think they just put a couple of guys at various of the national monuments.
Speaker 9: (30:14)
But we’ve seen and there’s striking photos, still photos and there’s video today, are they there now? Are they in these pictures?
Larry Hogan: (30:21)
They are specifically not involved in any of the things with the protestors. They’re on a specific mission, spread out, standing at monuments and without being involved in any of this stuff.
Speaker 10: (30:33)
Governor, just wanted to get clarification on [inaudible 00:30:35]. You said that, “She cannot be fined. You can’t fine her.”
Larry Hogan: (30:40)
Speaker 10: (30:45)
Because of the [inaudible 00:30:42].
Larry Hogan: (30:45)
Speaker 10: (30:45)
What do you think about [crosstalk 00:30:45] asking you to step down?
Larry Hogan: (30:49)
It makes sense because the elections are supposed to be free and independent. You wouldn’t want a Partisan, Republican or Democratic governor to be able to fire the administrator, control the election board, rig the elections, so it’s supposed to be an independent body, but they’re supposed to be accountable to somebody, which is an appointed board of people. Those names, the Democratic party sends their names. The Republican party sends their names. I don’t have any discretion whatsoever on them but the parties elect people for the board, but she used to report to those people and she no longer does.
Speaker 11: (31:26)
Governor, one last thing. Yesterday, Prince George’s County Police released a video tape. There was an incident with an officer. Today [inaudible 00:00:31:35]. It was an officer that kicked somebody that was down. Today, Prince George’s County executive and police [inaudible 00:31:40] passionately said, “We need to have more tools to be able to fire officers when we see things being done bad,” and they stood with about 150 [inaudible 00:31:50] in County. I know you answered the question by saying that there’s a task force, but the notion of giving these chiefs, the County executives, more authority to act quickly as opposed to having to wait, wait, wait, philosophically, how do you feel about that? Because they were passionate saying, “Look, we’re gone. We can’t just reform it. We’ve got to be able to break it down and build it up again.”
Larry Hogan: (32:15)
Well, there’s no question we’ve got to figure out a way to come up with a better system that’s more accountable. When police officers do anything that is wrong, I mean, this was completely inexcusable. This was not just a bad cop or bad policing. This was a murderer in a police uniform, right? This is beyond anything you can possibly imagine but I didn’t see anything about Prince George’s County, I’m sorry. I don’t even know the incident you’re talking about or what they said or what happened, but yes, police officers need to be held accountable like everybody else, and if there are some steps that people believe that we ought to consider to make sure that we take further steps, we ought to do that.
Speaker 6: (32:57)
I have one more open question. The open question is something everyone’s asking me other than childcare, just now that we’re entering phase two, does this include raising the cap on the number of people in social gatherings?
Larry Hogan: (33:10)
Yeah, that’s a great question. Nobody is following that cap on social gatherings because I think there were several thousand people in a social gathering, if you want to count that, I don’t know how you define a social gathering, but the 25 person limit is technically still in effect, but it’s still not really safe to be gathered with 4000 people closely together, but most people are not following that and it’s probably something… I think every state still has it in place and nobody’s following it, so it’s a great question to end on. Thank you.