TRANSCRIPT: Press Conference July 29, 2020
GOVERNOR HOGAN: Good afternoon. Joining me today are Deputy Health Secretary Fran Phillips and Assistant Health Secretary Dr. Jinlene Chan.
Yesterday I had another conference call with Vice President Pence, the nation’s governors, and the White House coronavirus task force. We’re continuing to press the White House for an extension of Title 32 authorization so that we can continue essential COVID-19 relief missions. The NGA continues to work diligently with the administration and leaders on both sides of the aisle in Congress to reach a bipartisan consensus and try to finalize an agreement to provide desperately needed additional federal funding for the states in the stimulus.
Yesterday we also held another conference call with the Maryland coronavirus recovery team, which includes some of the smartest scientists, public health experts, and business leaders in America. The following are science and data-driven approach, and in collaboration with our team of experts, we continue to closely monitor all of the public health metrics in Maryland, as well as the spiking numbers in states across the country.
Yesterday the federal government identified 21 red zone states, with rapidly rising positivity rates over a 14-day period. And they urged them to shut down parts of their economies and to place limits on social gatherings. Maryland is not on that list of 21 states, and we do not want to be on that list. Our numbers do not warrant those types of actions, but we are not immune. The virus does not recognize state borders. However, we do find ourselves at a fork in the road, a critical turning point where we could either continue making progress, continue heading in the right direction, or we could ignore the warnings and spike back up, like much of the rest of the country. We’re making every effort to keep Maryland safely open for business. And we do that by making sure that everyone is following the public health guidelines, and by doing the things necessary to keep us from looking like those other states.
Reversing course and shuttering businesses for a second time has proven devastating to the states that rushed too fast and reopened too soon. We are doing much better on our health metrics than much of the rest of the country, and we are doing much better on our economic recovery than most of the rest of the country. And we want to do whatever it takes to keep it that way.
We’ve come too far together to lose the progress that we’ve made on the road to health and economic recovery here in Maryland.
Thanks to a robust long-term testing strategy and our strategic stockpile of test kits, we successfully have increased our testing capability dramatically over the past month. As expected, this exponential increase in the gross number of tests, which is now at more than 1.1 million, has resulted in an increase in the number of positive cases that we have identified. However, through our continued aggressive efforts to fight the virus, our 7-day positivity rate, the key indicator that we track, is at 4.77%, and it has remained below the 5% goal recommended by the CDC and World Health Organization for 34 consecutive days. Only 3 of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and PG County, have positive rates above the 5% threshold. We continue to be aggressively trying to tackle local outbreaks. Nine days ago Worcester County had the highest positivity in the state at 7.26%. It’s now down to 4.55, a drop of more than 37%. Queen Anne’s County seemed to be spiking just 18 days ago with a positivity rate of 8.38%. Now Queen Anne’s County is down to a positivity rate of just 2.55%.
Last week Dorchester County spiked to a positivity rate of 7.16%. But after acting aggressively to try to handle outbreaks, it is now down to 3.6%. Montgomery County was one of the areas in our state hardest hit by the virus in the spring when their positivity rate peaked at 32.64% back on April 20th. Since then they have consistently declined to just 3.95% today.
22 out of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions have now met the goal of testing at least 10% of their populations. The state continues to make unlimited quantities of tests available to any jurisdiction that need them, to help address any shortages in delays. And we also continue to strongly advise Marylanders to use our state-operated testing sites, which utilize our Korean LabGenomics tests at our state-of-the-art lab that we built at the University of Maryland Baltimore. We are turning around our test results in just 24-48 hours. Unfortunately, because of the spikes and delays in other states, commercial labs across the country are not returning results for 10 days to as much as 2 weeks, which is completely unacceptable. This can render the results virtually worthless in terms of contact tracing and mitigation tactics.
On behalf of the nation’s governors, we have been pushing for a federal strategy. Yesterday, the White House officials committed to a national effort to work with those commercial labs in order to achieve quicker turnaround times and to expand the deployment of more rapid forms of COVID testing.
When this crisis began, our cases and outbreaks were predominantly among older people and in nursing homes. But our aggressive testing there is helping to understand and identify and stop the spread of the virus. But in recent weeks, we have seen a dramatic shift in infections in Maryland to younger people. 56% of the new reported cases of COVID-19 are Marylanders under the age of 40. And while the positivity rate for Marylanders 35 and older has significantly declined for more than 12 weeks, the positivity rate among Marylanders under 35 continues to climb. Marylanders under the age of 35 are now testing positive at a rate that is 76.8% higher than the positivity rate for Marylanders aged 35 and older. We are concerned and closely monitoring hospitalizations. We have seen a 28% increase over the past 2 weeks. The total hospitalizations for COVID-19 as of today is 571. The current number of ICU beds currently in use is 145. That is far, far lower than back in the spring, but still concerning that we’re seeing this rise.
And it’s also concerning that the uptick in these acute care beds is now largely younger patients. Now, fortunately they’re not as sick — they’re sick enough to go in the hospital, but they’re not suffering the same severe symptoms and complications as those older, more vulnerable patients, who we were seeing in the spring and who were going into the ICU and going on ventilators and where we were experiencing more deaths. Of course, it is troubling nonetheless that they’re being hospitalized. And it’s further proof that this virus can impact anyone anywhere at any age.
Thanks to our efforts to increase surge capacity by an additional 6,000 hospital beds, this increase is not cause for immediate alarm from a readiness standpoint. We remain fully prepared and well positioned for a potential future surge if the predicted national second wave emerges in the coming weeks and months.
Under our Roadmap to Recovery plan, this level of increase in our hospitalizations is enough, however, to trigger a stop sign, calling for a pause in further reopening plans. We have been fully open in all stage 2 activities since June 19. We will remain paused at this point and not move into stage 3 openings until it is safe, prudent, and thoroughly backed by the data and medical science to move forward.
In addition to robust testing, contact tracing is a critical tool to stop the spread of this virus. In the beginning of this crisis, we used contact tracing to identify those who had been infected by COVID-19 and those who may have been in contact and given the virus to, but now we’ve evolved our contact tracing strategy to identify patterns and to identify where and how the virus is spreading. But its effectiveness relies on the participation and cooperation of Marylanders. In fact, without your cooperation, it can’t work. It cannot save lives and keep Maryland open for business. So if you get a call from COVID-19, it’s very important that you answer the call and that you cooperate.
By identifying patterns, commonalities, and high-risk exposure locations, instead of shutting down a county or even just one type of business in a certain area, you can often take a targeted action to slow the spread. It’s the difference between using a scalpel instead of a sledgehammer, and it is a strategic approach to make smart and data-driven decisions.
Today I want to share with you some of our most recent findings which I think people may find surprising. The number one activity of those who have tested positive recently reported by staggering 44%, nearly half of all those who were interviewed by contact tracers and had tested positive, was attending a family gathering.
The next highest activity of those positive cases at 23% were house parties. And 21% was attending outdoor events.
For most of us, I think there’s a false sense of security when you’re spending time with family or friends, especially if you’re at home or at a backyard BBQ. I think I’m guilty of this myself. I think it’s very easy to feel comfortable thinking that just because you haven’t gone out to what we’ve thought of as a high-risk activity, that therefore we’re perfectly safe. I know I’ve been very careful, keeping the mask on, back and forth from home to work, going nowhere, but even I am guilty of this. I had my daughters and sons-in-law and four grandkids over, sitting in a room, watching movies with the kids without masks, eating popcorn, hanging out, eating dinner, not thinking that, you know, my granddaughter is going to camp, the daughters and sons in law are going to work, and we could have been spreading the virus.
There are people saying, we’re not going out; we’re going to rent a beach house together with other families, and they’re spreading the virus. We want to make sure that we sometimes just think about high risk activities, but the reality is, you can just as easily get this virus just by going to work in an office or just by attending a backyard BBQ or hanging out with a group or family. We have to be vigilant and cautious and can’t afford to let our guard down.
Contact tracing has also identified high risk locations. The number one place reported by more than half, 54% of people testing positive, were working outside of their homes. 39% shopping at retail stores. 23% dining outdoors at a restaurant. 23% dining indoors at a restaurant.
I’m not sure what’s going on with the slide. According to our data for all positive cases of COVID-19, the largest group of impacted people was healthcare workers at 25%. These folks are obviously the heroes and they’re on the front lines every day in a very risky job. Followed closely at 23% of cases by those who worked in offices with nonpublic facing jobs, which is going to surprise people. People think it’s people in bars and restaurants or people working in kitchens. It’s really people like us, who are coming to work every day in an office, who are next after the healthcare workers. 13% of the people next were individuals with public facing jobs, like people in the personal services business or other types of retail jobs. And fourth, at the bottom of the list, 12% of the cases were employees in a restaurant and food service industry.
So we cannot say with specificity exactly how they got the virus or where they got the virus, but these are commonalities. And they’re significant and important tools for our science and data-driven response efforts.
I’ve always said that I would not hesitate to take actions as we did throughout this pandemic if and when we deem them to be necessary. And we are trying to do everything possible to keep Maryland open for business in a safe way. The way we do that is pretty simple. People who can telework must continue to do so. And employers should give employees every opportunity to continue to telework. You’ve heard me say this before, but I just want to be really clear: Contact tracing is showing that teleworking is helping to keep Maryland open and your coworkers and employees safe. And if you do have to go to work or do you have to go out for whatever reason, physical distancing, wearing masks, face coverings, and very importantly, avoiding travel to other states or other areas that are experiencing spiking numbers.
So today I directed the Maryland Department of Health to issue a public health advisory for all out-of-state travel. We are strongly advising against any travel to or from states with positivity rates of 10% or higher. This currently includes: Florida, Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, Nebraska, and Idaho. This public health advisory applies to personal, family, or business travel of any kind. To the extent possible, we advise you to postpone or cancel travel to these areas until their positivity rates decline.
If you absolutely must travel to one of these locations, you are strongly advised to immediately get tested for COVID-19 and to self-quarantine while awaiting test results.
On April 18th, Maryland became one of the first states in the nation to require the wearing of masks or face coverings. 30 states across the country are now requiring people to wear masks when they’re out in public. Based upon what is now solidly backed by the contact tracing data and at the unanimous recommendation of our coronavirus recovery team, not only all of our doctors and scientists, but also our labor leaders, effective this Friday, July 31, we are expanding the current statewide masking order, requiring now the wearing of masks and face coverings in public spaces of all businesses across the state, as well as at outdoor public areas whenever it is not possible to maintain physical distancing. This expansion of the mask wearing order is fact based, apolitical, and solidly grounded in science. And while it can be inconvenience, especially in the heat, wearing masks is the single best mitigation strategy that we have to fight the virus, and the science and the data are very clear. It’s the best way to keep you and your family safe, to keep people out of the hospital, and to keep Maryland open for business. If you do nothing else, wearing a mask alone would help us significantly slow the spread of this virus and continue on the road to health and economic recovery.
The federal government laid out a county by county strategy for recovery, and our safe, effective, and gradual Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery we announced in April gives local leaders the flexibility which they requested to take certain actions at their own discretion. While bars and restaurants have never been fully opened and are only allowed to be open for seated, distanced, capacity-restricted dining. They don’t appear to be a main part of the issue, but there is continued concern about some businesses willfully violating the law and compliance not being enforced. So this is the sole responsibility of local leaders, local Health Departments, local liquor boards, local liquor inspectors, and, if necessary, local law enforcement agencies to ensure that residents and businesses in their individual jurisdictions are in compliance with all public health regulations.
Now, in just a moment I’m going to turn the floor over for a few moments to our Deputy Secretary Fran Phillips, who has been a fixture at so many of our press conferences. Since before the crisis became a crisis, Fran has been our field general, literally working around the clock, day and night, 7 days a week, to marshal an unprecedented public health response to this global pandemic, helping us to save lives, flatten the curve, and keep Marylanders safe. She’s been a trusted adviser to me, a guiding force, and a steady and calming presence to Marylanders looking for answers and reassurance. She’s simply done an amazing job.
Today after an incredible 33-year career in public health, deputy secretary Phillips is retiring. When we convinced Fran to return to state service in 2018, she agreed to give us one year. And thankfully I was able to twist her arm and convince her to give us two years. And to tell you the truth, it seems like we’ve actually gotten an extra 5 years out of her just in the last 5 months of this pandemic. It’s a huge loss to us, but a very well-deserved retirement for her. And I have twisted her arm again and convinced Fran to stay on in an advisory capacity as we continue to navigate through this public health crisis. We’re very fortunate that there will be a smooth transition at the state Health Department. I’m pleased to announce that taking Fran’s place as acting deputy Secretary of Public health services will be Dr. Jinlene Chan, who has also been serving on the front lines of our coronavirus response, working very closely with Fran since day one as assistant Secretary of Health. For the past 5 months she’s been leading our testing task force. She’s a big part of the team responsible for the dramatic increase in expansions in testing, which has taken us from 50 tests a day to more than 25,000. Prior to joining the Maryland Department of Health, Dr. Chan served as the health officer for AA County where she developed and implemented initiatives to combat the opioid epidemic, and address health and chronic disease outcomes. She completed her residencies in pediatrics and general preventive medicine at Johns Hopkins University, and she also holds a master of public health degree from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. While Dr. Chan you have some very big shoes to fill, I have no doubt that you’re going to pick up where Fran left off and continue to do great work leading our state on our road to recovery.
Fran, unfortunately now is not the best time to throw a retirement party because you ordered us not to have those, but I would like to present you a Governor citation on behalf of the people of the grateful state for your dedication. I should have my mask on before I do this, but I’m going to reach far.
Let’s give Fran a round of applause if we could for her great work. Reporters are not allowed to clap, I guess. Can you get a picture?
FRAN PHILLIPS: Thank you, Governor Hogan, for your kind words and for this recognition, which means a lot to me. I want to say on behalf of all Marylanders, I thank you, Governor, for your steadfast, no nonsense leadership as the states, the country, and in fact as the whole world moves through these unchartered waters.
From the earliest days last spring when you understood what was coming, you stepped out and declared a health emergency. The people of the state have seen every day since that declaration a Governor fully engaged, fully informed, and ready to act boldly with preventive measures when needed. What the public does not see is the time and the effort you commit every day to gathering information, to asking questions, yes, to challenging assumptions, and to connecting with others, with other governors, with national experts, with federal officials, and with advisers, all to stay ahead of this pandemic as it impacts Marylanders.
Over the past month you have led a team that has put its heart and soul every day into tackling the greatest public health challenge of our lifetime. Across all of state government, people are working with a pace that I’ve never seen in my 30 plus year career. And I want to especially recognize the terrific staff at the Maryland Department of Health, led my Secretary Neall, the Health Department’s team has responded 24/7 since the earliest days in late February. Often unrecognized and behind the scenes, the team analyzes lab reports as they come in through the night, they distribute lifesaving medication and PPE, they operate test sites whether it’s pouring rain or in the blazing heat. Whatever it takes, the Health Department folks are giving it their all. And what has been accomplished is truly extraordinary. Over 6,000 new hospital beds have come online, over 1.1 million tests have been administered, over 70 million pieces of PPE have been hauled across the state and delivered to nursing homes and hospitals and other locations. 1300 new contact tracers have reached out to interview over 23,000 people and over 14,000 medical recruits have volunteered for service in Maryland.
But none of these successes would have been possible without the support of the people of Maryland. What Marylanders have accomplished together over the past 5 months has been truly phenomenal. Marylanders have shown great conviction to help out, and they continue to do so today. Marylanders made sacrifices in the dark days of March and April, when all but the most essential businesses were closed. As a result, we did slow the spread and we did save lives. The Marylanders found ways to help neighbors, to adapt to telework and even to adapt to teleschool. Marylanders turned out to volunteer, including the over 2100 COVID survivors, people who have come online, connected with others, and shared their experiences and are now participating in very important research studies.
So I’ll always be proud of Maryland’s response to this pandemic and proud of serving on the Maryland Department of Health team of public health champions. A new group of really outstanding doctors and scientists have just recently stepped up to participate, to join the department at this unprecedented time. So our bench is deeper than it has ever been. And no one in the department has been more present or worked harder with good humor than Dr. Jinlene Chan. She’s an experienced physician and public health leader, and she sets a great example. She and I have worked together for a very long time, several decades, and we’ve gone through countless public health crises and challenges. I know that she will carry on the state’s public health work with dedication and with resolve. As the Governor said, when I was invited to come back to the department that I love, it was couched as a one-year assignment. I’ve loved every moment of it, Governor. It’s a little bit more than one year. But it is now time for me to return to retirement, time for me to get back to my wonderful husband, who has shopped and cooked for me and fed me for all these months, and to get back with my children and grandchildren.
Governor, at a press conference back on April 3, which does seem like years ago, you spoke about making progress in ramping up our surge capacity, our testing, about protecting essential workers and bringing all Marylanders together. Not knowing then what lay ahead, you called on Marylanders to stay together, to keep going, and to keep fighting the virus. You said our state will make it through this together, and eventually we will come back stronger and better than ever.
Governor, you were right then, and your words are right today. We have made great progress, but we have quite a way to go. So Marylanders, I’m talking to you. We need to stick together. We need to honor each other by wearing masks, by keeping our distance, by choosing to curtail in-person activities, and by making smart decisions. We can put ourselves in control of this virus. What we choose to do today will save lives and will keep Maryland Strong.
So with that, it’s my pleasure to ask Dr. Chan to come forward and to share her thoughts. Dr. Chan?
SPEAKER: I apologize for the interruption, but —
SPEAKER: I’m sorry.
[Multiple people talking at once.]
FRAN PHILLIPS: Dr. Chan?
JINLENE CHAN: Thank you. And good afternoon. Fran, I appreciate your kind words. And thank you, Governor, as well for your leadership, from both of you over the last month and really over the last many years. I really appreciate this opportunity to come on, to take steps towards continuing the work that Fran and the Governor have laid out over the last several months, and entering that leadership.
As Fran has alluded to, I have worked with Fran pretty much throughout my public health career, both when she was at AA County Health Department as well as when she came to the state. Twice. And really throughout it all, I have really been appreciative of her leadership on a number of very huge public health issues, including on infant mortality and disparities, including on diabetes prevention, and now certainly as we have been talking about in the last 6 months about our response as a state to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And certainly as we’ve been talking about, we have come quite a long way here in Maryland, in terms of our response, in terms of our knowledge of the impact on Marylanders, and coming from March 5 when we had our first case and the Governor’s declaration of an emergency to March 11 which is actually when the WHO declared COVID-19 as a worldwide pandemic. We have taken huge steps and worked around the clock multitudes of individuals in public health, in healthcare, in private business, in schools, in so many other sectors, to work to keep Marylanders safe.
To that end, we have — and thank you again, Governor, for setting targets for us and for really driving all of us to ensure that Maryland has sufficient acute bed capacity to care for individuals if they need to be hospitalized. Sufficient PPE and other medical equipment is also important for protecting our healthcare workers, protecting families, and for treating patients. And a really strong contact tracing infrastructure. Importantly as we have talked about as well, access to diagnostic testing has been really critical and really an underpinning to all of the work that we’ve been doing. I recall back in February and March, we were maybe doing hundreds, at most, a day of testing. And I was looking back, and we did less than 10,000 in a week. And now in recent weeks, we’ve been doing well over 100,000 tests for most of the weeks in this summer, which translates to roughly 1-2% of our population getting tests for COVID-19 each week.
And so all of that work, though, comes with all the dedication of the task force, the surge task force, and again, all of our partners around the state. And this work has enabled our state to stay open for the last couple of months at phase 2. So that has been really tremendous in terms of economy. We know what the impact has been on families, on schools, and on businesses. And that is something we continue to keep in mind.
As we watch the surging cases around the country, and in our neighboring states, states where my family is from, for example, in South Carolina, we are closely monitoring that because we know that there can very much be an impact on Maryland. And we know as the Governor said that our orders are in place and people are traveling back and forth. So we are keeping a close eye on that.
I want to reemphasize the messages here: To stay open, we must all continue to stay vigilant. We are still seeing community spread. So our numbers, we still see positives every single day, and while our overall positivity rate remains under 5% with a 7-day average, there is still a positivity rate, meaning that people are still getting tested positive. And we are watching our hospitalizations go up, and as the Governor indicated, it is particularly among people who are younger, in their 20s and 30s.
So with that, that means now is absolutely not the time to become complacent. What we are recommending are small inconveniences, individual small inconveniences, which is a small tradeoff to protect each other and to protect our families and neighbors. So to reemphasize, wear a mask. Especially in public places. Under the new order, it will be in additional locations. This has been shown to prevent the spread of potential infection, especially if someone is asymptomatic and is unknowingly spreading infection.
Continue to social distance. 6 feet or greater. Avoid large gatherings, whether they be parties or large family gatherings or others. Please, do try to avoid them.
And wash your hands. These are simple messages, simple activities that can be done and practiced by everyone. And ultimately the life that you save or the health that you protect may not just be your own but it could be your neighbor, your friend, your postal worker, your Starbucks barista.
So my work with the AA County Department of Health was over a number of years, and working with Fran, again, and many others. So the experience that I had with the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, then the Ebola response efforts and our Zika virus disease response efforts, and even with the opioid epidemic, all have reinforced for me the importance of coming together and working together as Marylanders to confront the threat that could impact our lives, our livelihoods, and really just the health and well-being that we all hope for our families.
So I look forward to working with the Governor and his team, as well as the wonderful team at the Maryland Department of Health and our many partners across the state, in other state agencies, healthcare providers, hospitals, skilled nursing, and others to continue the work that Fran again has helped to lay the groundwork for, to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on this state as we go into the fall and we look into the fall and winter seasons.
I hope that these efforts will be able to continue so that we can keep our families safe, and I would urge all Marylanders to join me in that effort, because together we can do that.
So again, thank you, and thank you, Governor, and to Fran.
GOVERNOR HOGAN: Thank you. I just want to say obviously we have two incredible women here who represent a whole team of people that really have been working hard. I just want to thank secretary Bobby Beale, Dennis Schrader, and the whole team at the Department of Health who has done an unbelievable job working around the clock. They just represent a large group of people.
(Question off mic).
We’re certainly hopeful. That’s what our plan called for, the federal plan. Yesterday the federal government I think advised those 21 states to shut bars and restaurants and some other activities and to shut down all gatherings of larger, more than 10 people. We don’t want to be in that position. This was the Trump Administration’s recommendations to those 21 states.
We have about 98% of our economy able to open. Performing at 98% because we have very few things not open at this point other than large events like football games and movie theaters and concerts. Everything else is open. We’ve done it in a safe and effective way. We want to keep it that way. A simple thing like masking keeps us from shutting down more business. We have only 8% unemployment as opposed to 25%. We’re doing better. But looking at these other states, they were doing well and then shot up. We don’t want to be one of them. Every single expert says these steps can help stop it.
(Question off mic).
So that’s why it’s a public health advisory and not a ban. There obviously are reasons where people have to travel. We’re still advising them unless it’s necessary, and if they do travel, they should still get the test even if they have to travel for important reasons, like a death in the family. If they’ve got to leave for a real reason, they should still get the test and should still when they come back, wait for the results back from the test, they should still quarantine.
(Question off mic).
If the public health folks feel that we’re at the point where we need to. At this point, our group of doctors, we just spoke with yesterday, unanimously felt that this was the only step that we needed to take right now. And we’re watching those numbers every single day. They may, depending on, you know, if the numbers start to creep up, they give us another piece of advice. I think it’s been clear since back in March, the very first day, we got the first case, I declared a state of emergency. Governor DeWine and I were the first states in America to shut schools. I was one of the first to put mask orders in in the first place. We’ve done 40 some executive orders. I don’t hesitate to take action if we believe it’s necessary. Right now we don’t believe there are more steps we need to take but we won’t hesitate to take the ones we believe are necessary.
(Question off mic).
I’m very, very concerned, Tom. I’ve been talking about this every single week on these calls with the President or Vice President, going back since the first or second stimulus bill. The President at one point committed to the 500 billion to the states at a press conference. They’ve been saying every week, we’re going to work with the states. You remember there was at one point Senator McConnell said, Let the states go bankrupt. We thought we had made good progress. We were very close in the 3.5 stimulus bill. They almost had us included and then we were left by the wayside. The current proposal on the floor in the Senate has some flexibility on previous money, which is helpful, and has some education funding. That’s helpful. But it doesn’t even mention funding to the states and local governments. Which is disastrous. The governors are on the front lines providing much needed services to people who really need them. More services to more people than ever. And there’s no money to pay for those services. And Moody’s analytic says we may lose as much as 30% of our revenues. And states and local governments have already laid off 1.6 million people. They’re talking about 3-4 million more. It’s fairly devastating if we don’t get this funding.
There is some bipartisan agreement among the governors. Governor Cuomo and I sent this letter. Almost all of the republican and democratic governors agree and have been pushing for this for months. Very frustrating that the administration and republicans and democrats in Congress can’t get their act together, and we continue to push. We will continue to push. They just came back from a 4th of July recess. Now they’re about to leave for August recess and people in America are still waiting to see if they can do something.
I don’t care about the specifics if it’s a republican bill or democrat bill. We’re fighting about this or that. Just get some kind of a bipartisan consensus and get something done because to not do something would be a disaster.
(Question off mic).
I was actually talking about the virus in restaurants. But there are very few state law enforcement officers, but every state and local government official will be, Health Department, everybody else, will enforce all of the state regulations. But I was talking specifically about, we have no involvement with bars and restaurants because that’s only local. They’re only county liquor boards and county liquor inspectors and so forth.
(Question off mic).
Well, I guess time will tell. We’re hopeful. We’ve talked with the experts at the federal level. We have talked with our experts. Our doctors on our coronavirus recovery team, they seem to think these steps will help, but it’s by no means a guarantee. We are very concerned. We can’t stop people from crossing the borders. And, you know, things are pretty much out of control in some of these states. There’s no guarantee that we can stop it, but these are steps that could help. And they’re pretty simple steps. But there’s no guarantee. We’re in much better shape than we were in the spring, and we’re in much better shape than most other states, but it is not a guarantee that we’re not going to be in bad shape in the fall or in the months to come. And we’re just doing everything we can every day to try to keep that from happening.
(Question off mic).
You know, there’s no fans there. We’re concerned — it seems as if Major League Baseball and the Orioles are trying to be careful about a handful of players. They obviously took steps to stop the Marlins from playing because they tested them very carefully. I know that they erred on the side — there were questions about the Expos playing. It was decided it didn’t make sense. They also made the decision to not let the Marlins play after they tested positive, so they seem to be making the right steps and there’s no people there, luckily.
(Question off mic).
We hopefully won’t get to that point. Hopefully people will do their jobs. Local governments always have that authority. Doesn’t matter what our plan said. It is their responsibility. State government has no involvement in bars or liquor licenses or things like that. There are a handful of state police but they’re nowhere near the size of the county police forces. That is their job. We’re just setting the parameters, and it’s their job to enforce it. And we gave them the flexibility which they asked for. Our federal plan and state plan and county leaders wanted to make their own decisions. Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and others, they didn’t follow our plan when deciding to open and they don’t have to follow our plan when deciding to close. They can do what they want.
(Question off mic).
No, they have to enforce our suggestion. Or not suggestions. They have to follow the state law. They cannot do less than the state law. They can do more restrictive. That’s what the state constitution allows for. It’s what the federal plan calls for. What our state plans call for. It doesn’t matter. They have those powers. It doesn’t matter.
(Question off mic).
Well, we have a stockpile of tests and we’re comfortable with that. We have a supply of additional tests. It’s really more lab capacity. We built our own lab. But that’s only a portion of the one. We’re turning them around quickly. And they’re highly sensitive. But we can’t do them all by ourself. A huge portion of this is, we have 220 some testing sites that are using labs all across the country. Most of the labs are done by a huge company, LabCorp, Quest, and the others. They’re the ones that are all backed up. Not us. But we rely heavily on them. They’ve been a big part of our solution. And they are backed up not because of Maryland but because of Florida, Texas, you know, these other places. So they’re the ones, one of them is meeting the median response, the midway point. Some of them are 14 days or more. That’s too late.
(Question off mic).
Oh, a number of people have been tested but I don’t think anybody has had the coronavirus.
SPEAKER: Last question.
(Question off mic).
GOVERNOR HOGAN: Yeah, there’s been a lot of confusion about this. First of all, I have almost no role whatsoever in the election process. They changed the law so I don’t even have any purview over the State Board of Elections. They’re completely autonomous and independent. State law requires that they hold an election and that they open every precinct on election day, that they have 8 days of early voting. We’ve always had a provision for people can request an absentee ballot for any reason whatsoever. There’s a lot of things that I came up with, Hogan’s plan and the crazy plan. The only step I took was to, which we can do under existing law, to encourage them to mail an application to every single voter whether they ask for it or not. That’s the only step I took. That was after 30 days of the state board failing to reach any kind of conclusion on any kind of suggested changes in the law. I was very frustrated that they didn’t come up with any kind of suggestion or not fix it because it was an unmitigated disaster. Not only did they not successfully do the mailing of the ballots, tens of thousands of people didn’t get the ballots, they got the wrong ballots for the wrong districts, wrong language. They also only opened a couple of precincts and then had people being disenfranchised because they had 4-5 hour waits and people just went home or didn’t know where to go. So we’re trying to resolve that by doing all of the above, making sure everybody are gets an application whether they ask for one or not. Only 14 states mail out an application or a ballot. I could do that in the law. And I only did that because they failed to come up with a recommendation. We had ideas, we think you should do this, we think you should do that, but it’s getting late. 3 weeks ago I told them to immediately mail out the applications. I want to know why it’s not done. I understand it’s difficult to get people to man the polls but that’s their only job. And the law says every 2 years they have to do that. So we’re trying to help them do it. We’re encouraging state employees. We’re going to give them leave to go help fill the polls if they can. We’ve offered to give them free PPE. If they have other ideas for how to do it. But they can’t just say we’re not going to open the polls or mail them. There are implications. They have to conduct an election. That’s what they do.
SPEAKER: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
SPEAKER: Thank you.