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The Office of GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN

TRANSCRIPT: Press Conference April 3, 2020

Governor Hogan Press Conference

April 3, 2020

2:15 p.m.

 

GOVERNOR HOGAN: Good afternoon.  

Before we get into the latest details on the war against COVID-19 pandemic, I have some other sad news to share. Former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townshend’s daughter, Maeve, and her 8-year-old grandson Gideon went missing after canoeing yesterday afternoon on the South River in Anne Arundel County. An intensive search has been underway since yesterday, which has included teams from the Maryland Natural Resources Police, the Maryland State Police, the United States Coast Guard, and the Anne Arundel County Fire Department. I reached out to and spoke with Lieutenant Governor Townshend this morning, and on behalf of the people of Maryland, I expressed our most heartfelt sympathies and prayers to her and her entire family during this difficult time. 

As of this morning, Maryland has 2,758 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The number of positive cases has tripled in less than a week. There are positive cases in every single one of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions. 416 Marylanders who tested positive are currently hospitalized. 43% of whom are currently in intensive care. 

On a more positive note, 159 hospitalized patients have now recovered and have been released from isolation. 

In the past 16 days, 42 Marylanders have died from this deadly virus. There are now more than 5,500 hundred cases in the National Capital Region, and 104 people have died in the Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia area. 

There are more than a quarter million cases in all 50 states across America, and 1.1 million cases in 204 countries around the world. Nearly 57,000 people have died. 

As we have been saying for several weeks, older Americans and those with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable and at a significantly higher risk of contracting, of getting more seriously ill, and of dying from this disease. Of major concern to us is that we have cases and/or clusters of cases at 60 nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the state. The major outbreak in Carroll County at the Pleasant View Nursing Home has 99 confirmed cases among both residents and staff, has resulted in 42 patients being sent to 14 different hospitals, and has resulted in 5 deaths. 

We immediately sent in National Guard medical units to provide support at the facility and state officials from multiple agencies and been in constant coordination with local Carroll County officials. 

The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services now has a total of 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Jessup, Baltimore, and Hagerstown, including two division of parole and probation employees, 3 inmates, 4 correctional officers, and 8 contractor staff. 

While we’re intensely focused on these particular clusters, I want to be very clear: We now have widespread community transmission. This virus is everywhere, and it is a threat to nearly everyone. 50% of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our state are patients younger than 50 years old, and more than a quarter of the Marylanders who are hospitalized are under 50. 335 Marylanders in their 20s are positive for COVID-19. 485 Marylanders in their 30s have tested positive. And 509 people in their 40s have already tested positive in Maryland for the coronavirus. 

Sadly we have 5 infants who have been infected, including a 1 month old. 

The reality is that this disease does not discriminate, and no one is immune. 

I want to make sure that everyone understands the gravity of the situation that we’re facing in the weeks ahead, and how important it is to stay home and to continue practicing social distancing. 

Marylanders are understandably worried by the spread of this virus. They’re concerned about their own health, about the well-being of their families and their friends and loved ones, small businesses are struggling just to stay in business, and far too many Marylanders have lost their jobs. People are struggling and wondering how they’re going to pay their rent, their car payments, and feed their kids. The sacrifices that we are all being asked to make are incredibly difficult. 

I wish that I could tell you when we’re going to turn the corner, when you’ll be able to go back to work, to school, or to church, or when any of us will be able to get back to living a normal life again. Unfortunately, I’m not able to do that. We simply don’t know just how bad things are going to get, or exactly how long this is going to last. 

Winston Churchill once said, if you’re going through hell, keep going. And that is exactly what we are all going to have to do. No matter how long and how hard the road ahead may be, we’re all going to have to find a way together, to keep going and keep fighting this invisible enemy with everything we’ve got. 

And it may seem hard to believe right now, but I am hopeful, and I do believe that our state will make it through this together, and that eventually we will come back stronger and better than ever before. 

Earlier today, I convened another teleconference with our coronavirus response team, leading doctors, epidemiologists and health experts, as well as with all of our municipal leaders across the state. Later today, I’m convening another emergency meeting with my full cabinet to discuss our continuing coordinated response efforts. 

Earlier this afternoon, House Speaker Adrienne Jones, Senate President Bill Ferguson and I, signed emergency legislation into law to expand the use of telehealth across the state so that Marylanders can have access to their doctors and providers by phone, video, e-mail, and receive more real-time evaluations with social distancing. 

I’ve also enacted an executive order to ensure that those who provide support services to the disabled will be recognized as essential health care workers. 

The institute of special COVID-19 response pay for employees during this crisis have expanded the open enrollment period for Marylanders to June 15th, extended deadlines for income and property tax returns to July 15th, and expanded call center hours for unemployment claims.  

We’re continuing to make rapid progress on our hospital surge efforts, and I’ve ordered the acceleration of the surge planning to be completed 6 weeks ahead of schedule. Work is already underway in all of the expansions we can make immediately available, including existing facilities like hotels and convention centers across the state. Initial construction is complete for the field hospital at Baltimore Convention Center, including facilities for patient and staff areas, partitions, and other necessary fixtures are being finalized over the weekend. 100 individuals have already been hired to staff the field hospital. In addition, the first wave of advanced medical tents have been assigned to various hospitals around the state, and the Department of Public Safety and Corrections locations, with many more tents to be allocated in the coming days to address surge gaps across the state. 

On Monday, we opened drive-through COVID-19 testing and screening areas in three motor vehicle emissions inspection stations, in Glen Burnie, Waldorf, and Bel Air. We’re also opening two additional testing sites at the emissions inspection stations in Columbia in Howard County, and White Oak in Montgomery County. 

In addition to ramping up our hospitals’ physical capability and added bed space, and to increase our testing capabilities with these drive through test centers, we’re also working to increase the number of health care professionals. I issued an executive order two weeks ago to fast track the licensing process for out-of-state health care practitioners and those with expired medical licenses. I also issued an executive order to provide more authority to designate emergency medical technicians and paramedics with special provisional status to work in their clinics and field hospitals. 

This provisional status is now available to EMS, clinicians from another state, students in EMS education courses, and individuals with expired EMS licenses and certifications. 

Last month, I activated the Maryland Medical Reserve Corps, a force of dedicated and trained medical health care professionals ready to assist in a public health emergency, and I directed the Health Department to immediately institute a program to allow medical students, nursing students, and medical technician students from our universities to be able to assist and be part of this effort. 

Already nearly 5400 people have signed up to be a part of this initiative from every single jurisdiction throughout the state. 

This spirit of service in Maryland is at its best, but we still need more help. And so I’m asking Marylanders with any of those skills that can be of service to please sign up by going to mdresponse.health.maryland.gov. 

As we continue to fight this unprecedented worldwide pandemic, our first priority is saving the lives of thousands of Marylanders. At the same time, we’re also facing another huge battle against catastrophic economic collapse. And we are attempting to tackle both of these problems aggressively and simultaneously. 

18 days ago, I issued an executive order prohibiting utilities, including electric, gas, water, sewer, phone, cable TV, and internet service provider companies from shutting off any residential customer’s service, or charging any residential customer late fees, and an executive order prohibiting the eviction of any tenant during the state of emergency. Last week we launched the $175 million comprehensive business relief program for some of our hardest pressed Marylanders and small businesses to get through this difficult period. 

On Wednesday, the Department of Labor extended unemployment insurance claim hours to assist Marylanders in need. And today, we’re talking some additional actions to help struggling Marylanders and small businesses facing such economic hardship right now. 

I’m enacting an executive order that prohibits mortgage lenders from initiating the fore closure process. Nearly 70 of Maryland’s largest banks, credit unions, mortgage lenders, state agencies, and other financial entities and institutions have agreed to provide additional flexibility to borrowers to lessen the economic impact of COVID-19. 

Upon contracting their financial services, Marylanders are eligible for immediate relief, including a 90-day period of forbearance or deferral for mortgage payments during which time no late fees will be charged and no negative information will be reported. 

We are also are requesting that all financial service providers abide by the forbearance and take advantage of programs established by federal authority. 

Today’s executive order expands to include industrial and commercial evictions and also prohibits the repossession of cars, trucks, and mobile homes. We’re also directing the Maryland commissioner of financial regulation to suspend certain lending limits for Maryland banks on a case by case basis in an effort to make more credit available to struggling small businesses. 

In addition, during this state of emergency, all executive state agencies will suspend debt collection activities. 

We’re going to continue to do everything that we possibly can to help get Marylanders through this, to help them weather the storm, to get back on their feet, and to help them recover. 

I want to thank the overwhelming majority of Marylanders who have taken this situation seriously, who have remained at home and avoided crowds and practiced this much-needed social distancing. Your actions and sacrifices are making a difference. Not only are you protecting your own health, quite possibly saving the lives of your family and loved ones, but also your neighbors and your fellow Marylanders. 

This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, and Wednesday is the beginning of Passover for those practicing in the Jewish community. In the Christian faith, we use this time to reflect on the sacrifice of one for the redemption of many. Regardless of your own faith, or beliefs, each and every one of us is now being asked to make sacrifices that may very well help us save the lives of others. 

While it is currently unsafe to gather in churches, temples, and other places of worship across the state, at noon this Sunday, I am calling on all Marylanders, regardless of faith, to join together at home or wherever you are in a moment of prayer or reflection for those we have lost, those who are sick, and the doctors, nurses, clinicians, health care workers, and first responders on the front lines around the clock, working to bring about a new dawn in our history. Together, give us strength and comfort to one another. Let us pray for each other. Let’s pray for the great state of Maryland, for the United States of America, for all the people suffering around the world. 

With that, I’m going to turn it over to our Deputy Secretary of Health, Fran Phillips. 

FRAN PHILLIPS: Thank you, Governor, and thank you for your relentless leadership in this difficult time. You are leaving no stone unturned to protect the health and safety of Marylanders every day 

I have a few brief remarks to make in connection with the developments of the nursing homes and assisted living and long term care facilities. 

I have some remarks to make, and I’d like to first directly speak to the residents of nursing homes and their families, loved ones, and friends, because I want you to know we’re doing everything we can. We are working relentlessly 24 hours a day to keep you safe and in your facility. 

Now, we heard from the Governor the statistics about how in fact younger people, people under the age of 50, are surprisingly infected with what I call the sneaky virus. It is not a virus that is exclusively for older people. But what we know is that older people and people with serious medical problems are disproportionately likely to get very seriously ill because of this virus. So it’s very important that all people of all ages obey the social distancing, in order that we keep particularly our nursing home residents, our vulnerable people safe. 

We’re seeing community transmission across the state, and as a result, yes, this virus has entered nursing homes in our state. Last week we had an extraordinary event in Carroll County in the Pleasant View Nursing Home. It was extraordinary. It was one that remarkably recognized the diligence and dedication of nursing home workers. 

So the second thing that I want to say, after talking directly to nursing home residents and their families, is to thank the tireless work of countless thousands of nursing home staff today who are on the front lines working to keep your residents safe every day. I know it’s not an easy job. I know it’s a stressful job. But I want you to know how valued you are. 

We do have outbreaks. We have outbreaks across the state now in many jurisdictions. These are not nearly on the scale of what we had in Pleasant View. But we do have concerning outbreaks in nursing homes. What we’re seeing in these nursing homes that by and large have instituted infection control procedures, have personal protective equipment, are screening individuals coming in, staff coming in, have banned visitors — I know that’s tough for families — but what we have seen is despite these measures people are still getting the virus. We’re looking to the wonderful staff and looking to the staff that’s coming into these facilities every day, and of course staff who have been symptomatic have been advised you absolutely cannot come to work. But what we’ve seen in Maryland is clear evidence that people can be infectious, that they can transmit this virus, even before they develop symptoms. So that is what we’re seeing in these nursing homes, and I have some measures that we’re going to talk about in order to control that kind of transmission. 

I want to talk first about the local health departments in every one of these counties in every one of these outbreaks, they’re doing investigations, they’re doing assessments of individuals, of nursing home staff, health departments around the state are being very vigilant and working very closely with their nursing homes. 

In addition to the public health response, there’s also the facility operators. I want to talk directly to the individuals, the companies that manage these very important components of our health care system, components that are starting it feel the surge and will be part of our response. 

I want to call out specifically some directions to the nursing home industry at this time. 

First and foremost, we must protect, we must take every measure that has been directed in order to reduce transmission and fully implement every single infection control piece of guidance as it’s been provided to you by the state. 

Secondly, you must protect your staff. You must have proper personal protective equipment for your staff. You must educate your staff. The staff provide essential care for nursing home residents. 

Talking about a symptomatic transmission, today we’ll be issuing guidance that any staff in any nursing home, any assisted living facility that has direct contact with patients must wear a mask throughout the course of that day. As I said, this is to protect the resident from inadvertent transmission by staffers. The staffers at this point in the virus may not even be symptomatic. So masks must be on. 

Another point. Every nursing home, every assisted living facility that begins to suspect that they may have an outbreak, they may have a symptomatic person, do not use one of the labs that requires mail-order specimens. Maryland state lab, that is ours, 24/7, the Maryland Governor is reserving lab capacity to do this urgent kind of lab testing. We can turn around the lab tests far faster than any of these remote labs. So if you suspect an outbreak and you’re operating a nursing home or assisted living facility, send that specimen to the state lab. 

Lastly, fortunately, we are having experiences with nursing home residents who have the virus, some of whom have to be hospitalized, but are recovering. When nursing home residents recover, they have to come back home. So I’m asking all the nursing home operators to work with your staff to make sure that your people can come back home safely after they have recovered. Come back home safely in order to protect the other members, other residents in the community, as well as to bring back people who we know cannot languish in hospital beds, who need to come back to their home. 

So we know that this is going on, the numbers are climbing, and we also know it was a very stressful time for folks in general everywhere whose lives are tremendously disrupted. I’d like to close by offering another phone number. 211. 211 is a statewide number that folks can call with a question, with concerns, if they want to reach out. 211, press 1, would be a gateway to those connections. 

With that, I’d like to turn it over to Secretary Green.

ROBERT GREEN: Thank you. Good afternoon. The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has been active from the beginning and receiving great guidance from the Maryland Department of Health. Thank you for always being available to us and guiding us through this. 

In the crisis, we’ve been given the expert advice and expertise and availability of our Maryland Emergency Management Agency and center for disease control, and keeping the health and safety of the population that we are responsible for and our staff safe as we continue to weather what has become. 

We have 17 cases confirmed of COVID-19 within our system. The department’s 17 cases are 3 inmates, 8 contractual employees, 4 correctional officers, and 2 parole/probation employees. 

We have taken strong preventive measures in all our facilities to protect our staff. Very early on, March 12th, we were directed and shut down intake into our system in its entirety. We shut down visitation, shut down programs, volunteer services. While that’s difficult, to turn away anyone who wants to come help in our system, it was an immediate and early intervention step to help us stay the course to where we are today. 

Statewide, we have health care, gotten infirmaries in each region of our state, as well as a number of negative air flow cells and areas to house people that are infected. 

We’ve significantly modified our operations as a department, enhanced hygiene and sanitation practices, consistent with recommendations of the Maryland Department of Health and Center for Disease Control. Require temperature checks and health checks for all our staff at every entry into our facility. We shut down — again, individuals coming from the counties to most detention centers, I thank them for our cooperation in helping slow the movement of individuals coming into our system. We’ve done the same for them. Again, a key way in which we can control movement throughout the facilities and make sure that we keep the inmate population healthy. 

We modified a number of services and how we do that to protect individuals. We’ve implemented telework for many of our staff, probation staff are now on telework, priority and managing their cases with enhanced supervision. 

I’d like to highlight the work of some of our Maryland correctional officers. This is one of the 10 programs in the correctional facility, in the country, and we started maybe two weeks ago making products that our community needs, we need, so that we can lower our reliance on the supply chain, so as of today, Maryland Correctional Enterprises has stood up in making gowns. These are rewashable gowns for our staff in our system, and also provided to the community. 

We are making acrylic face shields. We’ve manufactured to date 5,000 of those and have cut enough to manufacture 50,000 face shields that we’ll be able to send into our community to help our health care professionals. 

Masks, as the Governor spoke about masks, and Fran as well, we’ve manufactured to date 4,000 masks and we’re on track to keep that going as long as we need to. But those are masks for our staff and masks that we can also deploy into the health care field. 

Most recently, as of last night, we’ve begun our hand sanitizer production and have created 41 cases of 16-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer with the right ingredient and alcohol level to kill the virus on individuals’ hands. We know that’s a much needed product and we’re pleased to be able to do that. It’s important to note that the population of individuals involved in the work programs are pleased to be doing this work, this service for their community, their families, and their hospitals around our state. 

So I want to thank them. 

I want to thank Maryland Correction for being so innovative and responsive to what we’re doing. 

Further, we’ve rolled out video visitations across our system in this human crisis to allow people to contact their families, sustained phone calls to help them stay connected to their families as well. 

We have a hotline for families that are concerned about their loved ones incarcerated in our system. I’d like to provide that number. That number is 410-769-6419. That number is answered by operators 24 hours a day. We’d be happy to assist you and give information that you may need. 

And finally, I want to just recognize and thank the incredible work done by the men and women of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services in these trying times. They’re there, they’re present and focused on the mission of public safety. It’s in the forefront of their eyes, their focus, on what they’re doing, and I could not be more proud of the department. 

Thank you. At this time, I’ll turn it over to Dr. Salmon, superintendent of state schools. 

KAREN SALMON: Thank you, secretary, and thank you, Governor, for your leadership 

With the announcement of last week, our school systems have continued to work with the staff of the State Department of education to implement the continuity of learning. I’m proud to say we’re rolling out comprehensive plans for continuity of learning on the scale never before experienced by anyone in the history of our state schools. 

School systems have distributed thousands of devices to students and families to provide them with online capabilities, and secure a platform to deliver instruction and interface between teachers and students. 

Many systems are also distributing educational materials through mailings and pickup at food distribution sites. 

All of our jurisdictions have resumed instructional activities at this time, and we know that the number and capacity is going to climb as we continue through next week. 

As virtual learning and instruction ramp up, discussions continue on how to move forward with key decisions that affect our students and school communities on a number of issues, including graduation, certification, and a baseline of standards that need to be met by the end of the year. We are working with local superintendents on a daily basis to provide guidance on these issues. 

I encourage all students and parents to continue utilizing the resources shared with them with their local school system’s website, and also the Maryland State Department of Education’s website. 

We have maintained and continued to grow our robust operation for the provision and delivery of meals for school-age children across Maryland. Just last week, we served 880,000 meals to children across the state. This is nearly double the amount from the previous week and demonstrates the monumental efforts by the nutrition staff of the State Department, local school systems, food service personnel, and also volunteers. 

We made the decision early to expand sites for meal distribution regardless of eligibility of students, and now, with the rapid increasing unemployment and with the waiver from the U.S. Department of Education, any site can now be approved to provide meals to children. 

We continue to explore additional options in order to limit the number of interactions while also providing meals. 

The seamless transition to grab and go service is a great example of our food service directors and providers across the state. We’re confident these efforts will carry on with success. 

I’ve heard countless e-mails from family and service providers across the state about the preservation of child care programs that are closed or currently focused on serving children of essential personnel. I understand the anguish and concern for families, but the prospect of continuing to pay tuition in order to retain a slot in child care facilities in the future, or continue to pay tuition for child care services they’re not receiving is not tenable given the financial circumstances that many find themselves in. 

We’re working on a solution to provide financial relief to families during this state of emergency. That will also allow them to maintain their status in the child care facility to which they send their children when we return to normal operations. 

We strongly encourage child care facilities to be flexible in enforcing contract provisions against families while the child care facility is closed due to the COVID-19 state of emergency. 

This pandemic has had a significant impact on families across the state, and many are experiencing severe hardship. During this time of emergency, we must seek to work together and strive towards equitable outcomes. We hope to have a plan forward very soon, and will work to a fair, reasonable resolution for families and for child care providers. 

Thank you. 

GOVERNOR HOGAN: Thank you, and we’ll be happy to take a few questions. But first, let me thank the Secretary of Labor to answer any questions you may have about the unemployment and financial programs we’ll talk about. I want to say I mentioned earlier that we’re going to have an emergency call with the entire cabinet. You heard from some of the leaders of our agencies here today. I just couldn’t be more proud of not only these leaders, but the people that work for them and their teams. I mentioned, you talk about health care workers on the front lines and first responders, but there are truly heroes in every single one of our agencies working around the clock to help people under truly difficult circumstances, and I want to thank all the people under difficult circumstances working to help people. Thank you to everyone in the state. 

SPEAKER: Governor, can you talk about the potential cases and mortality in the next 30-day model or 60-day model? What’s the statement from the best and worst case scenario 

GOVERNOR HOGAN: That’s probably a question for Fran Phillips. Not sure if she’ll answer — 

FRAN PHILLIPS: Yes, there are models and there are models. I think we’ve all seen a lot of coverage on different models coming from different parts of the country and in fact from overseas. We have looked at these models and are trying to understand if these models somehow converge and what their meaning is for us in Maryland. The two key points on modeling are what is the value, and I can tell you we have input from the task force from experts. While these models are online and there are models that are being promoted, the Governor has looked to these experts not only to give professional direct advice, but also to interpret some of that modeling. So that work is underway right now. We’re being informed as much as we can. And we actually are, in real time, getting information from these experts. So I don’t have a date or a number for you. Just to say we’re look at all these models, which of course are as good as the assumptions that go into them. 

SPEAKER: What numbers go along with that? 

FRAN PHILLIPS: A fundamental number that we look at is the cases. So the cases that are reported every day, the incremental increase in the cases reported every day. Clearly what the Governor has said is we’re on the beginning of a curve. The curve is going up, and we’re accelerated in terms of the new cases. So where that’s going, how soon, that’s not something that we have clarity on. 

SPEAKER: Should all Marylanders be wearing masks? 

FRAN PHILLIPS: I knew somebody was going to ask me that. Let me just say about masks, see, during the course of this pandemic, which seems like so long, it’s only been a matter of weeks, the evidence has come out from across the world, actually, on how the sneaky virus gets out 

So one time, we absolutely thought there would be no problem with transmission if there weren’t symptoms. Now that information is changing. I understand there will be federal guidelines coming down as far as masks. 

Here’s what we’re talking about with masks. Masks are not to protect you from incoming viruses. They’re to protect everyone around you from the virus that you may be carrying, and not be aware that you have. And in the course of speech, we transmit little tiny droplets, and it would be in those droplets that the virus is spread. 

So the recommendation for masks is absolutely for health care workers. For health care workers in hospitals, many of them have the very high quality N95 models. Those who are not doing risky kinds of procedures use surgical masks. 

But there’s a third tier of masks, and that’s what’s called a cloth, that we’re seeing now coming into production. A cloth mask is better than no mask in terms of not transmitting from the person wearing the mask to the outside.

Thank you. 

SPEAKER: The governor mentioned there were 60 facilities that had cases. Can you tell us how many people are affected? 

FRAN PHILLIPS: I think that information, it’s from earlier this morning, and I want to stress that this is changing, this situation. We have 60 nursing homes that have evidence of virus in the nursing home. 

So for a nursing home, actually, the technical definition for an outbreak is one confirmed case. So we have 60 nursing homes as of this morning with at least one confirmed case. Of those 60, 46 had between 1 and 4 cases. Another 12 have higher rates, between 7 and 10 cases. And of course there’s the outlier, Pleasant View, which has an extraordinary number. 

It’s important that we swarm these nursing homes with infection control, everything we can do to stop the transmission. But don’t think the virus is only in the nursing homes. As the Governor said, this is evidence across the state of community transmission. This virus is here, and it’s in our state. 

SPEAKER: Ms. Phillips, can I ask, the most striking statistic that the Governor said, 43% of people currently hospitalized in the ICU. Can you give us any idea what’s behind the number? Age breakdown? Is it compromised immune system? That is a staggering percentage 

FRAN PHILLIPS: Thank you. It is actually true. These are very, very sick people. I don’t have a breakdown on their ages. We do know that there’s a wide span of age of people who are hospitalized. This is a serious situation, and for some people, it can very very quickly become a situation of acute respiratory distress. Critical care specialists, all the care is being provided to these patients. They’re being monitored day to day in the system so we have near real time understanding of what’s going on 

SPEAKER: Sorry, when you say something with such conviction, I just rejoice. Do you wear a mask when you’re not here? At a grocery store? 

FRAN PHILLIPS: I think that is a very good question. I think now our understanding of the virus, first of all, how prevalent it is in our communities and how important it is that — this is 6 feet. So 6 feet, this is 6 feet. That’s the kind of separation between you and someone who might be inadvertently carrying it. Wearing a mask is not a bad idea. Wearing a mask can be protective. What’s important to say is that the most critical place for these masks to be is on the faces of health care workers. So while we continue to have a shortage, and we’re working through every possible channel to bring in all the equipment we need to protect ourselves, we need to prioritize the very heavy duty medical masks for hospitals. 

SPEAKER: The nursing homes and also the supplies to the institutional settings, in addition to the recommendations and requirements today, is there any talk of doing more extensive testing, like proactive testing? 

FRAN PHILLIPS: Thank you for that. And for now, as we’re beginning to understand that we can have apparently healthy staff in a nursing home un suspecting, without symptoms, who are going about their business and have inadvertently infected patients, what’s happening now in some of these clusters, these outbreaks, is that the Health Department and local staff have teams that are going into those nursing homes and testing everyone on the unit with a confirmed case, and we’re testing to see if there’s transmission that we don’t know yet in order to understand how to best disrupt that transmission, where people live together and are frail 

SPEAKER: So it’s more testing after there’s a confirmed case. 

FRAN PHILLIPS: Correct. It’s more testing of people in that group. 

(Question off mic.)

GOVERNOR HOGAN: I have seen the letter, but just hasn’t been on my priority list. I haven’t had anything to talk with them — 

SPEAKER: Should they close such a business? 

GOVERNOR HOGAN: I haven’t really thought about it. 

SPEAKER: How are you doing, personally?   

GOVERNOR HOGAN: Well, I think we’re all running on adrenaline. This is an unprecedented crisis. None of us ever imagined we’d be put in this position. But there’s a lot at stake. We have the lives of 6 million people counting on the work that we do. So I’m doing fine. I don’t see my kids and grandkids other than Skype and FaceTime, but First Lady and I are doing fine. Not getting a lot of sleep, but working hard on a lot of coffee and diet Coke.  

SPEAKER: Governor Cuomo said there’s need for more than 50,000 (inaudible.) What do you say about that? 

GOVERNOR HOGAN: That’s obviously one of the frustrations for all of us throughout America. 

FRAN PHILLIPS: I know in terms of, what do we need in Maryland to prepare over and above what we have right now in our hospitals? The most important thing we’re doing right now is procuring more ventilators, whether through federal or private channels, everything we can to increase our capacity.  

We’re also looking at ventilators that are here in Maryland right now which are operating in surgical centers, these are ambulatory surgical centers, now closed, not typically used in ICU but for anesthesia for short term procedures, but can be converted to be used by folks in the ICU. So we’re looking at inventory of those ventilators, also ventilators from ambulances, transport ventilators. And then there are ventilators in our colleges and universities, nursing schools, community colleges. Therefore there are ventilators there. Believe me, we’re scouring the state. 

SPEAKER: Do you have an idea of how many tests are out there? 

FRAN PHILLIPS: Um, no. I wish I had a clear answer for you on that. You can see on our website that there’s an amount of testing underway that’s increasing, and we report not only positives but the negatives that come back. I mentioned earlier the national labs, the specimens are typically brought through physicians’ offices and come back several days later. The reason, the point I was making earlier about the nursing home outbreaks is we don’t want it later. We want the information as fast as we can in order to take the steps we need.  

Now, we’ve seen some reports from the labs, there are results that can return in three hours. We have asked, we have ordered, we’re looking for those devices as well as the cartridges. We don’t have them. We want them. We’re doing everything we can to expedite and really expand testing. 

(Question off mic.)

FRAN PHILLIPS: I can’t tell you that, because we don’t have visibility on all the negatives from the commercial labs. But as I said, on the website you have reports of positives and negatives. That’s a ballpark if you add that together. But we really want to ramp this up, not only in our state lab, which is prioritized for certain cases, and the commercial labs, but also our hospitals. Our hospitals really want the capability to test. They have labs. And in fact I just spoke yesterday to the CEO at the hospital, raring and ready to go. They don’t have some of the raw materials and resources necessary to do the tests in their labs. So they too have to send them out. 

(Question off mic.)

You’ve been hesitant to criticize the administration, but it shows you asked for these critical things and they didn’t send them. What are you doing, as governor of Maryland and as chair of the NGA, how do you get FEMA — 

GOVERNOR HOGAN: I wouldn’t say I’ve been hesitant. I’ve actually been leading the national discussion with the governors of why we haven’t been getting this stuff, and I’ve had meetings with governors in 6 different conference calls with the president, and I’ve brought this up on every single call. We got nothing. Last week we got FEMA in charge, and we got the first distributions of anything to anywhere. I’ve continued to push, but it’s very frustrating 

SPEAKER: When you get on the phone, and you say, FEMA, if you don’t send the — 

GOVERNOR HOGAN: I’ve been on the phone with the recent coordinator of FEMA, the president, vice president, every leader in Washington. 

SPEAKER: You said you took actions to expand telehealth to — you’ve taken action to expand telehealth, but a lot of people still don’t have access. How do you plan to address that? What have you told them to do about that? 

GOVERNOR HOGAN: That’s a great question. I don’t know, telehealth people that don’t have access. I don’t know the answer to that one. Sorry. 

FRAN PHILLIPS: That is a good question. The telehealth expansion is very important, because that’s for every discipline, every kind of medical service or social service that you want or need, that’s a way to do that remotely. So to the particulars of your question, there’s a very important element across the state, including areas that don’t have telehealth, and that’s the response of the community health centers. These are federally qualified community health centers, they know their community, and they have outreach. So they may not have internet, but they have telephone. So we’re really relying on our partners. 

GOVERNOR HOGAN: Thank you guys.