TRANSCRIPT: March 19, 2020 COVID-19 Press Conference
GOVERNOR HOGAN: Good morning. Last night it was my sad duty to report the first death in Maryland as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a Prince George’s County resident in his 60s with underlying health conditions and no known travel history.
This Marylander was infected with the virus through community transmission. And I know that all Marylanders join me in praying for his family and his loved ones.
Unfortunately, we are only at the beginning of this crisis, and while this is the first death here in Maryland, unfortunately, it will not be the last.
As of this morning, we now have 107 confirmed cases of COVID-19 here in Maryland, an 87% increase in the past 48 hours.
Among today’s new cases is a 5-year-old girl in Howard County who has tested positive for COVID-19, the first case of a child contracting the virus here in Maryland.
As of this morning, there are more than 220 confirmed cases in the Washington region, here in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia, and 9,500 cases across the country, and more than 220,000 cases around the world.
The President yesterday announced that he will invoke the Defense Production Act, the first time this power has been used since the Korean War, which gives the President the authority to direct private industry to manufacturer medical supplies and equipment needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yesterday afternoon, as chairman of the National Governors Association, I convened and led a call with my fellow governors from across the country to discuss the unprecedented actions being taken in various states in our efforts to help slow the spread of this infection.
The governors have agreed to five immediate priorities that we are requesting of the federal government, which we will be taking directly to the President and the vice president on a call with all the nation’s governors today. And I will then be reaching out to leaders of both parties in both houses of Congress later this afternoon.
First we will push for dedicating at least 50% of funding in the phase 3 supplemental directly to the states.
Second, increased access, production, and supply of PPE test kits, ventilators, and other supplies.
Third, the authorization of Title 32 to give governors maximum flexibility for the use of the National Guard. In Maryland I will be working to appoint a dual status commander who will command both National Guard and active duty military that the Department of Defense will soon assign to our state.
Fourth, the governors will urge federal leaders to provide guidance on how the Defense Production Act will be implemented.
Fifth, the governors are requesting a delay or a greater flexibility for the completion of both the 2020 census and the transition to Real ID.
We need all levels of government working together to get through this crisis. Later today, I will be convening a call of regional leaders, both D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. I will also be convening our second call with all of the county leaders from across Maryland.
This fight against this global pandemic is a race against time. We must take action now. We cannot afford to delay, which is why here in Maryland, I am continuing to take whatever actions are necessary to protect the health of millions of Marylanders and to save thousands of lives.
Earlier this week I strongly urged all Maryland citizens to avoid unnecessary travel, and we discouraged anyone from entering BWI Marshall Airport unless they are actually a traveling passenger or reporting to a job.
That is no longer a recommendation. At my direction, the Maryland Department of Transportation will now restrict access to the BWI terminal to ticketed passengers only and badged airport employees only. Exceptions will be made for those visitors who are assisting disabled passengers. No one else will be granted access. Maryland Transportation Authority police will be strictly enforcing this policy, effective immediately.
In addition, we are urging the use of all of our transit assets for essential travel only. No one — no one should get on a MARC train, metro, Amtrak train, or bus, or any of our transportation assets, unless you are an emergency personnel, a front-line healthcare provider, or your job is essential to the supply chain.
We have installed critical public service announcements on signage on all of our modes of transportation all across the state, including major highways, at the airport, all of our transport facilities, urging all Marylanders to stay home to help us slow the spread of this virus.
Following updated CDC guidelines, today we have amended our previous executive order to prohibit any events of more than 10 people in close proximity at all locations, establishments, and venues all across Maryland.
After working closely with our County Executives and getting their input and guidance, we have jointly made the decision to close all enclosed shopping malls and all entertainment venues across Maryland effective at 5:00 p.m. today.
Despite all of our repeated warnings for weeks and despite the rapid escalation of this virus across our state, the region, the nation, and the world, some people are treating this like a vacation or a spring break with parties and cookouts and large gatherings at some of our parks.
Let me be very clear: If you are engaged in this type of activity, you are in violation of state law and you are endangering the lives of your fellow Marylanders.
This week Johns Hopkins University, and I believe today Morgan State University and McDaniel University, have announced that they will finish their spring semesters online.
I have been in communication with the board of regents of the university system of Maryland and asked them to take the same steps for the entire university system and to keep — while the campuses will remain open, that they should discourage students from coming back to campus and to take their courses online for the remainder of the semester.
As part of our public health surge, I am enacting an executive order to allow trucks to exceed their legal weight limits in order to facilitate the delivery of important equipment and supplies.
On Tuesday, I enacted an executive order directing the Maryland Department of Health to conduct an immediate assessment and come up with a plan in order to open closed hospital facilities across the state and to take other measures necessary to immediately increase our capacity by an additional 6,000 beds to meet the demand created by the escalating spread of this virus.
Through phase one of this surge plan, 900 beds have already been made immediately available, and Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore City is opening a new floor to add greater capacity.
By early April, we expect to have an additional 1400 beds open as we work to continue to work to reopen closed floors and hospital facilities across the state.
I want to thank those hospitals who have stepped up and been a large part of this massive undertaking. In order to advance this plan, we have also today issued an executive order to provide regulatory flexibility to allow emergency medical services personnel to augment other healthcare providers. I am issuing an executive order today allowing for delivery and carryout sales of alcohol by restaurants, bars, distilleries, and wineries, subject to local liquor laws and local regulations. We’re doing this to help small businesses and restaurants, and to protect vulnerable people from having to leave home, but I want to urge people to be responsible and to avoid large crowds in stores.
Finally, I am pleased to report that we have now more than 350 meal distribution centers open and operating for our students across the state.
This truly is one of the most daunting challenges that our state has ever faced. But sometimes the worst times have a way of bringing out the very best in people. And Marylanders are a shining example of that. We’ve seen so many examples of compassion and generosity in recent days, and there are dozens of them. But let me just tell you a couple.
A number of our distillers all across the state are now, instead of producing alcohol, they’re producing hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizer for the local communities.
Yesterday the owners of Pasadena Boat Works donated 14,000 respirator masks to the Maryland Department of Health.
And a group of Baltimore City residents has come together to form a quarantine response network to run errands and check in on their elderly neighbors in places like Hampden, Charles Village, and Sandtown-Winchester.
In these times of anxiety and uncertainty, the people all across our state always look for ways to reach out and help their neighbors. To encourage that generous spirit, today we are launching a new Maryland Unites website at governor.maryland.gov/marylandunites to highlight the ways and opportunities that Marylanders can volunteer in assisting their neighbors and their communities in the days and the weeks ahead.
I spoke yesterday with Gail McGovern, who is the national President of the American Red Cross, who told me that they are experiencing a severe blood shortage across the country and here in Maryland as a result of COVID-19. The Red Cross has implemented additional precautions and strict protocols to ensure the safety of donors and staff, and yet they continue to see a dramatic decline in the number of donations. And the need for blood will continue as this outbreak grows. So if you’re healthy and you’re feeling well, please consider donating blood. You can go to redcross.org to learn more about how to do that in your community.
Look, I know that the actions that we’ve been taking may seem extreme and they seem frightening. But as I said before, they are also absolutely necessary to save the lives of thousands of Marylanders and hundreds of thousands of Americans. And we’re all in this together. If we all do our part, and if we rise to this challenge, to meet this moment, we will get through this together.
And I just ask that you continue to pray for each other and for our state and for our nation in the days ahead.
May God bless each and every one of you. May God bless the great state of Maryland.
With that, I’ll take some questions.
>> (Question off mic.)
GOVERNOR HOGAN: That’s one of the things that we’ll be talking with the President and vice president about today, making sure we get some of those dollars right out to the states, because I think we’re in a better capacity to help those small businesses, and it’s why we have that on the list.
Look, the federal government, all of the branches of government are working together. Some of the actions they took to get money out to the people who need it, to get unemployment benefits out, to provide some backup for large industries that we don’t want to collapse is great, but the small businesses and the people in our states that are being hurt, we’re in a better position to understand who needs the help right now and to get that help faster. So that’s one of the things the Governor is going to be asking for that flexibility and for that money from the federal government so that we can implement it. So I agree with the comptroller.
>> Governor, you have announced a number of title restrictions today. Do you foresee a possibility of even more tightening control public gatherings, perhaps eliminating public gatherings, shelter in place orders, and banning all travel?
GOVERNOR HOGAN: I don’t anticipate that at this point, Brian, but these are discussions obviously that they’re having at the national level. And I think some of the folks in yesterday’s press conference in Washington at least talked about the fact that that’s being discussed. Some smaller segments of the country have taken sort of some of those steps and actions like Europe. I mean, look at San Francisco Bay Area. They’re talking about things in New York City and Boston. But we’re not at that point yet.
>> (Question off mic.)
GOVERNOR HOGAN: Well, so today we’re talking about the universities. But we’ll maybe let Karen Salmon talk about that in a little while when we finish going through a round of questions, but right now the superintendent of state schools is talking with all of the local superintendents on a daily basis, getting input about — and that’s what we said when we implemented the order, over the two-week period, we would get input about what we might do after that and how we might potentially provide education to kids and that eventuality.
So the decision hasn’t been made, but they’re working on what do we do in that case as far as online learning and/or with younger kids or people without access to computers, how we provide instructional kits. So that’s not for today’s announcements, but it’s something that lots of people are working on and taking a look at.
>> Governor Hogan, part of your announcement, you mentioned people quarantining in place. So what’s the tipping point that you will decide there will be a shelter in place?
GOVERNOR HOGAN: It’s a really good question. Look, we are just making the decisions as quickly as we can, as aggressively as we can. I think more aggressively than most people are. And look, a week or so ago, we said we wanted to limit, based on the federal guidelines, gatherings of 250 or more. We talked about people, you know, staying out of bars and restaurants and crowds. And then we had the massive crowds in the bars and restaurants because nobody paid attention. We had to shut down all of the bars and restaurants.
We then, based on CDC requirements, lowered the capacity to 50, and we’ve got people totally ignoring that.
We’re lowering it even further.
We’re trying to avoid locking down society and we’re trying to keep things as normal as possible, but, you know, if you look across the country at what other states are doing, I mean, in the discussion with the governors, you know, people are making decisions almost every hour of every day and different places are taking different actions. We’re taking all the best ones we believe are right for our state at the time we think they’re right to make.
>> Governor some people said that people are having trouble getting unemployment funds. Any advice for those people?
GOVERNOR HOGAN: The legislature yesterday passed some emergency legislation to help with unemployment. Congress has passed legislation in Washington to help with unemployment. We are asking for, you know, waivers of waiting periods so we can immediately process unemployment rather than making people wait a week or two and we should do it immediately.
But yeah, there’s going to be an awful lot of people impacted. But at every level of government, we realize it and we’re trying to fix it so that we can get people money faster.
>> (Question off mic.)
GOVERNOR HOGAN: There actually were probably 25 things but we’ve sort of narrowed it down to the things we’re going to talk about today with the President and vice president.
>> (Question off mic.).
GOVERNOR HOGAN: Maybe I’ll let the agent-general address that, but so, we — I don’t know how many states have activated the Guard. I think there are a number of folks that have activated certain portions of their National Guard.
Our Maryland National Guard has a dual-purpose role, and so when the President calls them up for service, for the nation, you know, when they go assist us overseas or to fight for our nation, they work under the command of the President. If I call them up, as the Commander in Chief in Maryland, they work under my direction. The agent-general reports to either one of us.
I think when they’re joint command, they’re talking about having some active duty military be activated to come out to assist the states in some of their missions and to back us up. And I think in that eventuality, the request or the things we’ll work out would be that our agent-general here in Maryland or in other states would actually control the response with assistance from the active duty military.
Is that right?
>> Yes, sir.
>> (Question off mic.)
GOVERNOR HOGAN: No idea. They just have talked about the possibility of sending active duty military, and we said, if that happens, we want to be prepared for that and how we would utilize them. But there has been no decisions from the federal government to my knowledge.
>> (Question off mic.)
GOVERNOR HOGAN: I mean, there’s a proposal in Washington about sending checks right away to Maryland. I haven’t seen the proposal on that.
We’re going to try to get as much help as we can. I think we have about a billion dollars in a rainy-day fund, but we have to figure out exactly where those dollars are going to be spent.
>> Governor, you mentioned some flexibility on the census and Real ID. Could you elaborate on that?
GOVERNOR HOGAN: Yes. So we shut the MVAs and said we don’t want people crowding into our Motor Vehicle Administrations because they’ve got to get their licenses renewed. Almost every other Governor agreed with that, like yeah, we don’t want that either.
So we waived all the state requirements, saying no one’s license is going to expire. We’ll give you a waiver until the end of the state of emergency, and then you’ll have 60 days to update and renew or whatever you have to do.
But the federal law says you have to get a Real ID by October 1. We I believe are either number one or we’re way ahead of almost everybody. We have something like 80% compliance or 70% compliance. Some states are down at 20%. But we still probably right now don’t want people coming in to the MVA with their birth certificates and all that stuff they have to have that they can’t do online, so we’re just — and other governors all agreed and said, yes, that’s a big problem for all of us. They’re just asking to push the pause button on all of these things that require interaction with people where they would spread the disease. So that’s going to be a discussion we’ll have later today.
>> (Question off mic.)
GOVERNOR HOGAN: Well, so governors have been taking action across the board, and so — look, this is a combined response that every leader — I said earlier that I’m talking with the leaders in the region, the leaders in the nation, at the White House, in the administration, in the Congress, with our local county leaders. It’s going to take every single one of us working together.
There are certain, you know, powers and authorities and responsibilities at the federal level, but the governors of the states also states’ rights and states powers and we have the ability and the need to do certain things and we’ve been all taking those actions. But we also need to work together with the folks at the levels below us and the levels above us, because it’s going to take everybody working together to fight this crisis.
>> (Question off mic.)
GOVERNOR HOGAN: We haven’t seen the proposal. I read something about it, but no proposal has been sent to us.
On the surface, I mean, it’s something — we’ll consider any proposal that comes from any one of our state’s attorneys, but we’re now asking citizens to stay in their homes. The people that are in our correctional facilities are kind of protected and in quarantine. So if we tell everybody else they have to stay home but we’re going to let people out of prisons, that seems it would have the opposite impact. Putting people out on the streets — they’re safer where they are. So I’m not sure that’s a great idea.
All right. Thank you very much.
>> (Question off mic.)
>> So a lot of transportation right now. There’s a lot of assistance required to distribute things like the Strategic National Stockpile distribution when that’s ready to go.
We’re also able to augment a little bit, just a little bit, with our medical capabilities. As we said before, a lot of my medical units also work of course we’re all National Guardsmen, they work as civilians. However, we do have some capabilities. We have the structure in place that we can stand up and work with the Maryland Department of Health to augment some of the different counties out there.
We’re an agile force, so we have a lot of capability and things, and there’s things that we haven’t even discovered yet that we’re capable of doing. People ask for help and we figure out a way to get it done.
>> General, when do you expect to have shipments from the National Stockpile arrive?
>> I’m going to have to defer to the Maryland Department of Health. They’re the ones who have that mission. We assist them when they’re ready to distribute it.
>> Anything else?