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The Office of GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN

TRANSCRIPT: Press Conference March 23, 2020

March 23, 2020

>> GOV. HOGAN:  Good morning.  We now have 288 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our state.  Over the past weekend, we saw a 678 increase in positive cases.  We now have cases in 21 out of 24 of Maryland’s jurisdictions.  Sadly, a Montgomery County woman in her 40s became the third Marylander so far to have died as a result of the coronavirus.

There are now 635 cases in the capital region of Maryland, DC and Virginia.  32,000 cases across America.  And more than 342,000 cases around the globe.

Over the past several weeks, we have taken some swift decisive unprecedented actions in our state in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to save lives.  I just want to take a moment to thank the overwhelming majority of Marylanders who have taken this situation seriously and who have remained at home, avoided crowds and practiced much needed social distancing.

Unfortunately, many people, are still not taking it seriously.  There were crowds of people visiting the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. and large gatherings on the beach in Ocean City and on the board walk and at many of the county and local parks across our state.  Let me repeat once again as strongly as I possibly can, if you were engaged in this kind of activity, you are breaking the law and you are literally endangering the lives of your family, your friends and your fellow citizens.

Because of this irresponsible and reckless behavior, beginning today, even further and more aggressive enforcement actions will be taken by state and local authorities to disperse these gatherings.  In the continuing effort to protect the health and safety of all Marylanders, we are also taking immediate additional mitigation and social distancing actions.  This morning, I have enacted an executive order, which closes all nonessential businesses, organizations, establishments and facilities in Maryland effective at five o’clock today.

In addition to those businesses, which have already been closed by our prior executive orders, this new executive order closes all those businesses not covered by federal guidelines, which we’re issued Thursday by the federal government as defined as critical infrastructure sectors.  Including healthcare and food and agriculture, energy, public works, community-based government operations and the defense and industrial-base sectors, law enforcement, public safety, transportation, critical manufacturing, financial services and water and waste water.

Let me be clear:  We are not issuing or ordering a shelter in place directive or forcing people to stay home.  However, we are telling all Marylanders to follow all of the directives we’ve already issued and to follow state law against crowds of more than 10 people.  And we are telling you, unless you have essential reason to leave your house, then you should stay in your homes.

Today’s actions of closing nonessential businesses are absolutely necessary to protect the health of Marylanders and to save lives.  This is an exceptionally challenging time for Marylanders and for all Americans.  That includes those who are out of work, and our small business community.  Our first priority is saving the lives of thousands of Marylanders.  And while we are fighting this unprecedented worldwide pandemic, at the same time, we’re also facing another huge battle against the potential of tremendous economic harm.  And we must tackle both of these problems aggressively and simultaneously.  Both of these battles are going to take all of us, at the federal, state and local levels and the private sector, rising to this challenge and working together.

Over the last several weeks, governors in both parties, from all across America, have come together and pushed for more robust and aggressive federal response.  As chairman of the National Governor’s Association, we submitted several priorities to the president and vice president last Thursday, based on all of the important priorities of the governors.  While we’ve seen some progress on some of these requests, including the invoking of Title 32 so that FEMA can cover the cost of the National Guard’s Relief Missions and giving us the flexibility and some progress on increasing efforts to ramp up the production of and delivery of PPE’s and necessary equipment, and on extending the deadline for the 2020 census, we’re still waiting for additional action on Title 32 for all of the states.

And still pushing for the extension of the Real ID and we’re still pushing very hard for major economic stimulus and for monies to go directly to the states so that we can help the businesses and individuals that are impacted and there’s still no action on that.  We’re going to raise these issues again on our call with the president and vice president this afternoon.

I’ve spoken several times over the past couple of days with US Labor Secretary Gene Scalia about helping unemployed and displaced workers.  Last week, Congress passed a second stimulus package, which included paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave for workers.  Enhanced unemployment insurance and enhanced food security programs.

I also spoke with Secretary Scalia one million dollars in worker grants in response to this health emergency.  I urge both the White House and Congress to include in their stimulus package this direct aid to the states who are on the front line of this crisis.  Over the weekend I spoke with Vice President Pence, Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, and leader of Senate and House.  On Friday I spoke with our entire federal delegation that represents Maryland about the importance of this much needed assistance.  Package currently being debated includes 300 billion dollar emergency economic relief plan to help small businesses make payroll and cover expenses.  This legislation would provide cash flow assistance through federally guaranteed loans to employers to maintain their payroll during this emergency.  This will help workers to remain employed and help small businesses to ramp back up after this crisis.

As I’ve said repeatedly, governors are leading on the front lines of this crisis.  And we need Congress to work together to support our efforts.  This is no time for partisan dysfunction.  It’s going to take all of us working together in order to save thousands of lives.

This afternoon, I’ll be leading another one of these teleconferences with the President and Vice President with all the nation’s governors.  We’re going to continue to press for further coordination and further resources from federal government.  This will be our fifth such teleconference with the governors.  All of the federal assistance is critically needed.  And the efforts so far are appreciated.  But the states continue to need more assistance and more action.  However, Maryland is not just going to rely on or wait for action from the federal government.  As we have, time and time again, we will continue to lead and continue to take action in this crisis.

Three weeks ago, I submitted a supplemental budget to provide an additional immediate 10 million dollars in resources to prepare the state’s response to COVID-19.  Two weeks ago, I submitted emergency legislation to tap into the state’s Rainy-Day Fund in order to respond to this crisis.  Thursday, I signed emergency legislation into law, which provides relief to Maryland workers by allowing them to collect unemployment insurance if their business has bang closed due to COVID-19, if they have been quarantined or if a family member has been quarantined.  Also, on Thursday  we were successful in receiving statewide Disaster Declaration from the Small Business Administration so that small businesses in our state that had been affected by the coronavirus can immediately apply directly for low interest federal disaster loans to help cover the costs including payroll bills and accounts payable with long term payments stretching up to 30 years.

Today, we are taking additional major steps to help support the states small businesses and workers.  We’re immediately launching a 175 million dollar comprehensive business relief program here in Maryland.  This will bring together resources from two of our key state agencies; the Maryland Department of Commerce and the Maryland Department of Labor, to help hard-pressed Marylanders and small businesses, help them get through this difficult period.

Our unemployment insurance program is ramped up and is dedicated helping employees and employers who have been affected by COVID-19, if you’ve been laid off, you can immediately file a claim by phone or email or by submitting an application online.  Unlike other states, Maryland has no waiting period whatsoever.  So claims can be filed right away immediately.

And we are launching the COVID-19 Layoff Aversion Fund as of today, an additional seven million dollars is available to help small businesses retain their employees during this crisis.  Maryland small businesses can apply for up to $50,000 in flexible funding to help continue operations and keep their employees on the payroll.  These resources are available right now at businessexpress.Maryland.gov/coronavirus.

Through the Maryland Department of Commerce today we are introducing the Maryland small business COVID-19 Relief Fund.  A 75 million dollar fund that will provide working capital to small businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 50 employees that have lost revenue due to this pandemic.  These fund can be used by small businesses to pay their employees, their suppliers, their rent, and to cover critical operating costs to help them stay in business.  We’re also establishing a 50 million dollar Maryland small business COVID-19 relief grant fund, which will provide not long term but loans but direct immediate grants of up to 10 thousand dollars to small businesses that have lost revenue, because of the coronavirus.

We’re also immediately developing a five million dollar fund to provide incentives to Maryland small businesses to manufacture masks, personal protective equipment and other supplies to immediately help he meet the critical demands of our healthcare workers.  We are deploying another 40 million dollars in emergency money through all of our existing commerce finance programs to specifically target assistance to Maryland small businesses to help them survive this COVID-19 crisis and to help them preserve the jobs of their employees.

Today, I also issued an executive order to protect families from price gouging.  This covers all essential household items and commodities.  Retailers who attempt to exploit this crisis for profit and gain, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  My administration is marshaling every tool in the arsenal of public health to combat and slow the spread of this pandemic.   I week ago we launched our plan to increase hospital capacity by an additional 6,000 beds in order to meet the demand created by the escalating spread of this virus.  Phase one of this plan has all right made nine hundred beds immediately available.  We expect an additional 1400 beds by early April.

Plans are under way as we speak to establish a field hospital at the Baltimore Convention Center.  As an alternative care and an alternate care site at the adjacent Hilton Hotel in Baltimore City.  Maryland National Guard will be setting up these sites in coordination with Army Corps of Engineers.  These will be operated through joint partnership with the University of Maryland Medical System and Johns Hopkins.

At my direction, FEMA, will be delivering 250 hospital bed packages and everything associated with them in the coming days.  We also worked with University of Maryland Medical System to reopen the Laurel Hospital, which will make an additional 135 hospital beds available in short order.  Maryland National Guard and partnership with Maryland Department of Health and Prince George’s County Health Department is establishing a pilot coronavirus drive through screening location at FedEx Field in Landover.  We also have five vehicle emission inspection centers ready to immediately open as drive through screening and testing centers as soon as the necessary testing kits PPE’s and lab capability becomes available.

Today, I have issued orders to authorize a fast track process, which will bring more testing capability directly here in Maryland without waiting for federal action or FDA approval.  This will dramatically shorten a process which would have taken several months.  Healthcare providers are now required to prioritize tests for hospital patients and healthcare providers will cease elective procedures to free up capacity.

I want to take a moment to say thank you to the countless healthcare professionals, the doctors, and the nurses, first responders who are on the front lines every day working around the clock, to help keep us safe.  And I want to thank the soldiers and airmen of the Maryland National Guard, we deployed these citizen soldiers to assist with humanitarian missions all across the state and they never hesitate to answer the call to help their fellow Marylanders.

I want to thank all of the small businesses who had to close their doors during these uncertain times.  I can assure you that these actions, while incredibly difficult financially, will save the lives of thousands of your fellow Marylanders.  And we will have your backs in the weeks ahead and we will do everything we can to help get you back on your feet and to help all of your employees recover.

Finally, I want to sincerely thank the people of Maryland who have helped their fellow Marylanders just by staying home and those who have volunteered their time to distribute school meals, who have picked up groceries for an older neighbor, or given blood to the Red Cross and I encourage all Marylanders to visit our Maryland Unites website to find out what you can do to help your neighbors and your communities.

And I also ask that you keep giving to your local churches who are not able to pass the collection baskets on Sundays and to all the other volunteer organizations, all of whom are desperately in need of your donations so that they can continue to help others in our community.

And to my fellow Marylanders, let me say that, I know how incredibly difficult this is on each and every one of you.  There is a great deal of fear and anxiety.  And the truth is that none of us really know how bad it’s going to get or how long it’s going to last, but I can promise you, that there are a great deal, a great many dedicated people doing some tremendous things, working around the clock and doing their very best to help keep the people of Maryland safe.  And we are all in this together.  And we will together, we will get through this.  God bless each and every one of you and may God continue to bless the great state of Maryland.

At this time, I’m going to turn it over to our commerce Secretary, Kelly Schultz who will provide some more detail on our comprehensive relief program for Maryland small businesses and workers.

>>SECRETARY SCHULTZ:  Thank you and good morning.  Coronavirus is really presenting a series of challenges that we’ll be facing together in the coming months.  We know this is frightening.  We know people are not just worried about health and health of their loved ones, we know you are worried about your jobs and whether the stores will be opening and taking care of your families, we are doing everything we can and balancing the need to slow spread of virus with need of businesses to keep operating.  That’s why we’re encouraging restaurants to continue carry out services for example.

We have also worked closely with small business community and federal partners to ensure Maryland was improved for the Small Business Administration’s assistance.  Small businesses across the state can apply for disaster relief funding through SBA.  That’s important resource.  We do know we’ll need to do much more than that.  If we do not act to support our business community during this emergency, and economic risks to industries, small business employers and above all, the livelihoods of Maryland residents will linger even after we hit the down side of the curve and pressure op our healthcare system eases.  Small businesses must survive and people must have jobs they can return to when things return to normal.

So, we’re acting now to ensure that.  Commerce’s two new emergency relief funds will help small businesses and nonprofits whether the storm.  First Maryland small business COVID-19 Emergency Relief Grant Fund offers up to 10,000 to businesses with 50 or fewer employers.  There will also be funding that will be set aside specifically for our nonprofit communities.  These grants can provide working capital to cover payroll, rent or mortgage payments utilities or other expenses that are incurred during ordinary operations.

Maryland small business COVID-19 emergency relief loan fund is our second program, which offers low interest loans of up to $50,000 to businesses with fewer than 50 employees.  We are offering that at zero percent interest rate for the first 12 months.  These loans can be used to cover regular operating costs such as payroll, render, utilities, et cetera.

I’m pleased to say that in the past week or so, seems longer than that, many partners in the business community have come forward and asked how they can help.  We are absolutely grateful for that.  If you are a business that has important supplies that you can sell to the state that may help, please send a message to resource.fema@Maryland.gov to let us know.  There is one critical area in particular where our industry partners can step up and participate, the immediately, immediate public health concern of COVID-19 is amplified by nationwide shortage of personal protection him doctors and hospital badly need.

As the governor said there is an opportunity to work with our manufacturing partners in small businesses to help to meet that need.  To that end, Commerce is introducing five million dollar Maryland COVID-19 Emergency Relief Manufacturing Fund to incentivize production of personal protective equipment such as face masks, ventilators and other women.  State pay had may purchase this or connect manufacturers with buyers who need these resources.  Commerce industry experts are working with partners in the industry including Maryland Manufacturing Extension partnership, Regional Manufacturing Institute of Maryland and Maryland Manufacturing Advisory Board to identify those companies right now that may be able to meet the needs of our healthcare industry.  Please visit our business express website for all of that information, which has information that can be consistently updated for your assurances.

You can find information about all the ways Maryland is helping businesses cope including new programs and we’ll have more information about the manufacturing program available to you by the end of the week.

I assure you our teams are working around the clock as the governor had stated.  And they are all working together.  We are unchartered waters now, the situation is you know like anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes but we will as the governor said, get through this and we will be doing it together.  We’ve heard from many many businesses that are frightened and unsure of what to do.  They want to keep serving customers and they want to keep paying employees, they want to still be here when COVID-19 is fading only into our memories.

To our business community, I want to say that these programs at the Department of Commerce and partnering agencies, can help you get through this.  We know this is difficult time for you.  And we are here to work hard on your behalf and to support you.

And now, I would like to turn this over to Secretary of Labor Tiffany Robinson.

>>  SECRETARY ROBINSON:  Thank you.  Good morning.  In addition to the programs being offered by Maryland Department of Commerce Maryland Department of Labor launched new COVID-19 Layoff Aversion Fund.  Starting today, as the governor mentioned, total of seven million dollars available to support our state’s small businesses and workers who are undergoing financial stress because of the coronavirus.

Small businesses can apply now for up to $50,000 in flexible funding to help continue operations and keep Marylanders working.  All businesses who apply will receive response within two business days submitting simple application.  Our team at the Maryland Department of Labor is ready and available to provide assistance during application process.

As the governor mentioned we are talking to federal partners almost daily.  My department is seeing as much as possible of the 100 million dislocated worker grants recently announced by Department of Labor.  Allow us to expand further.  We know how important it is to provide immediate relief during this rapidly evolving state of emergency.  So we’re cutting through all the red tape in order to get our businesses the help they need right now.  With these flexible layoff aversion fund this can do countless things such as purchase remote access equipment and software to allow employees to work from home.

Sanitize facilities to protect employees that that are still providing essential services on site.  Pay for liability insurance needed to change business models, like previous dine-in only restaurant now delivering food to the community.  This fund can also provide up to $50,000 to supplement small businesses cost if they are enrolled in labor to work sharing you know employment insurance program.  The work share program provides additional alternative to layoffs allowing employers to reduce hours of work for employees, who can collect unemployment insurance benefits to replace portion of wages.

Unfortunately for some, however, unemployment has become reality during these difficult times.  I want to be clear Maryland Department of Labor unemployment program fully operational remains dedicated to helping with employers and employees who have been affected by COVID-19.  If you’ve been laid off, you can file claim immediately by phone, email or submitting application online.  Like the governor said, Maryland does not have a waiting period like other states do.  We have expanded call center hours, added servers, application speed and capacity and created dedicated email addresses to provide better customer service.  Not matter when or how you file any eligible Marylander will be paid benefits back to the very first day they were laid off.

As the governor mentioned we expanded eligibility as well to make sure everyone is covered during this state of emergency.  Maryland is allowing workers who have not been terminated to collect unemployment if employer has been closed due to covid, meaning if they have been quarantined or caring for family members.  In light of current market conditions need for social distancing labor has wavered all work search requirements for unemployment insurance recipient benefit recipients.  Unprecedented actions taken to save lives so we just want everyone to know Maryland Department of Labor in conjunction with all other state agencies are doing everything in our power to support and protect our small businesses and our workforce.  Thank you.

>> GOV. HOGAN:  Thank you.  We also have with us Fran Phillips from the Maryland Health Department and Major Timothy Gowen.  With that I’ll be happy to take any questions.

[ Question off mic ]

There are a whole lot of businesses exempted, basically ones we already took action on long list of federally protected ones that that are considered essential and we can get you the list of all of those we’ll put that out with the press release later.  Many businesses still open.  Everybody in supply chain to make sure we get all necessary goods and services out to everybody.  It affects wider array of businesses.

>>  [ Question off mic ]

>> GOV. HOGAN:  I’m not sure if anybody has an estimated number at this point, obviously something we’re going to be very concerned about and taking at look at.

>> [ Question off mic ]

Excuse me?  Day care governed by different order, handled by Maryland Department of Education.  We put out pretty clear directives on that already.  Maybe taking further action on that either tomorrow or the next day, but we did that last Thursday I think on day care.

>>  [ Question off mic ]

Yeah, I think we still want to abide by the social distancing not have crowds of people I think we can work on trying to limit those crowds.  We asked local lawn enforce officials to work with those big box stores to help with crowd control.  We want to make sure stores stay open so they can get people essential things they need especially food and other necessary items that’s critical, they are critical part of supply chain.

>>  [ Question off mic ]

So, great question, Brad, quite honestly, if you look at, listen to all experts in federal level and local level nobody has, the perfect crystal ball to say exactly when weather, are the actions going to help or not.  We believe, we were among the first states in the country to take many actions.  I think one of the first to declare state of emergency, one of the first to close schools, first to close bars and restaurants, one of the first to take action on social distancing we’ve been very aggressive, we’re hoping that these actions will help us not be as badly affective as other states or help slow the curve we have not yet hit the peak we know numbers are going to dramatically rise as testing increases so we don’t want to unnecessarily alarm people but had we taken no action, we know that the numbers would be dramatically worse and the question is, these actions that we have taken how much good are they going to do we’re hoping they are going to stop tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people being affected in Maryland and hopefully save the lives of thousands.

>>  [ Question off mic ]

Most of the increases are now because we’re dramatically ramping up the number of tests.  So, a week or so ago, it was 50 test a day went up to 250 up to 500 you are seeing more numbers because we are testing more people doesn’t necessarily mean more of it spread the numbers are going to go up.

>>  [ Question off mic ]

Maybe, I don’t know if Fran has an answer.  We’re pushing as fast as we can with private labs, federal government our teams here at Hopkins and state lab is going to continue to do the ones for our investigative cases on the people that were tracking this person who did they come intact with when we have a known case.  Private sector and all these other things are going to handle other folks from the hospital.  That increasing not nearly fast enough rate which is general frustration.  We’re going to talk more about that this afternoon with federal partners.

>>  [ Question off mic ]

I’d like to hear that we’re making more progress on these needs on testing on PPE’s ventilators masks, and I’d like to hear they’ve taken action on the five requests from the governor last Thursday.

>>  [ Question off mic ]

So, our Department of Corrections and Public Safety are taking measures as ever other agency part of the limitation of equipment is hurting us we have so many PPE’s we need them for correctional officers, healthcare workers, police officers, we need them for all line of people people doing testing and got to be priortization who gets them first.  First responders, just further exacerbates issue, problem of needing more of these things to protect everybody involved.

>>  [ Question off mic ]

What’s that?  At this point, our orders we believe are more encompassing and perhaps more effective than, semantics, some people, some states have said, there’s shelter in place order but we’re going to leave all these businesses open.  So we’re going to tell you you have to stay in you’re house but you can still do all of these things.  We said we want you to stay in your house.  We’re going to close all these things.  It’s little bit, comparing apples to oranges, I think our actions are more aggressive than other states that order shell in place not as, we don’t think at this time’s draconian to lock people in homes stop places where they gather, some places they are going to go better smarter action for us, but, we’re going top continue to look at this every day.

[ Question off mic ]

I’m doing what I’m suggesting to everyone else, you know, I’m not staying in my home every day cause you are seeing me here at work we have limited our, we’re limiting size of our press conferences you see social distancing only four people where we normally had 12 or 15, they are spaced out, fewer reports my staff is down to just hand full of people most working from home as are many state workers, still working hard but on computers and laptops.  I’m not going out in public, there aren’t many crowds.  We’re, I’m practicing the same advice we’re giving everyone else, washing hands frequently avoiding contact.  Avoiding crowds, staying home as much as possible.  And limiting involvement and exposure I’m following advice I’m giving everyone else.

>>  [ Question off mic ]

I know Governor Cuomo, Vice Chairman of the National Governor’s Association, was talking about that over the weekend, probably something we’ll have a discussion about this afternoon hasn’t been our experience but an issue we’ll be talking about, there aren’t enough of these, all of these items and we’re pushing to get our supply wherever we can and pushing federal government to produce more of them and distribute more of them hopefully we’ll get some progress.  Little bit of progress not nearly enough.

>>  [ Question off mic ]

Yes, that’s what, one of the things we want to incentivize if there are Maryland companies that have been helping, some or difficult, producing ventilator more complicated than making a mask, there are people stepping up, like I mentioned last week, our distillary making hand sanitizer, produce alcohol.  Instead of drinking it, making different type of alcohol so you can wash youre hand.  I think smaller businesses are actually in the process of ramping up so they can produce masks.

[ Question off mic ]

Not to my knowledge, but, it may not require arrests, we’ve asked, putting directives out to local law enforcement and police agencies, you may see police cars lighting up sirens and going on their loud speakers and saying please disperse you are endangering the public violating law, hundreds of people gathering they are going to break up the crowds, which they were doing in New Orleans last week, I’d rather see that step encouraging people that this is not safe.  I saw pictures that were, make your toes curl over the weekend, not just our state across the country people ignoring directives.

>>  [ Question off mic ]

I think that the economic damage could be significant that’s what I talked about twin battles, we don’t take any of these steps and hundreds of thousands or millions of people are going to die in America.  We do take these steps and hundreds of thousands or millions of people are going to hurt economically, terrible choice.  Solution is we try to help both, try to save lives and help save the economy and that’s unfortunately the situation we’re in, you can’t make the choice.  We don’t want businesses to die and we don’t want our people to lose their jobs we also don’t want to lose lives of so many people.

>>  [ Question off mic ]

I mentioned that recently, most major hospital have taken that step last week on their own, University of Maryland Medical System, I think MedStar Hospital, maybe Johns Hopkins, most major hospital some of the smaller outpatient surgical centers had not so we included that in executive order to have directive across the state to limit all elective surgeries with some exceptions.  They have to free up beds that are needed to save people’s lives.  Thank you guys very much.