Governor Hogan on laying out a plan to get Maryland back to normal and President Trump decision that Governors should make decisions for their states.
On the same day Gov. Larry Hogan mandated that anyone entering a store or using public transportation cover their face to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, he also said Maryland leaders have already started thinking about what comes after the pandemic.
Citing the social distancing and stay-at-home orders he issued last month and the “extraordinary sacrifice of Marylanders,” the Republican governor said Wednesday during a news conference at the State House in Annapolis that “we’re now in a position to move from containment and mitigation to plan the gradual rollout of our recovery phase.” Hospitalization rates due to the virus have shown signs of stabilizing and the state’s surge capacity and testing capabilities have increased.
But Hogan cautioned how much further the state has to go: Maryland on Wednesday surpassed 10,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, while suffering its deadliest 48 hours since the pandemic began.
“Everybody would like to know when we’re going to get back to a normal life," Hogan said. “ ... We are starting to slow that growth slightly. We have not yet reached the peak. Now would be the worst time to take our foot off the accelerator.”
Hogan stressed the pillars of the state’s recovery plan, which he said he will detail further next week. Those four points are the expansion of the capacity to test people for the disease, expanding hospital capacity to meet a surge of patients, increasing the supply of personal protective equipment, and building a robust contact tracing operation to track down people exposed to patients with COVID-19.
Hogan said the state hopes to expand to offering 10,000 tests per day, a goal “we believe we’re on track to try to” reach.
Maryland has received materials to perform 40,000 tests from a combination of labs, said Roy C. McGrath, the director of Maryland Environmental Service who is helping the administration respond to the pandemic. He said 30,000 of those tests using the state’s existing testing machine. The state is working to acquire more quick tests, McGrath said; it has only a limited number of rapid tests at this time.
Breaking News Alerts Newsletter
As it happens
Get updates on the coronavirus pandemic and other news as it happens with our free breaking news email alerts.
In the past week, Maryland has received 1 million face shields and 1,000 ICU beds, with Hogan saying the state remains ahead of schedule for its goal of 6,000 such beds. In the next week, the state expects deliveries of 4.5 million N95 masks, 290 oxygen concentrators and 252 ICU ventilators.
Fran Phillips, deputy secretary for public health, said all of the state’s health investigators are tracing COVID-19 cases, adding that more than 800 Marylanders have voluntarily registered as having recovered from coronavirus. That’s higher than the state’s confirmed count of 607 people who have recovered and been released from isolation.
“We are in this for a very long time,” Phillips said. “We will prevail. We will get past this virus, but right now is not a moment to let up. This is absolutely not a moment to relax. This is a moment to stay home and do the things that we all know have been very, very difficult to do, but as the governor has said, we are starting to see progress.”
Hogan cautioned that although Maryland’s rates of infection are lower than originally projected, that is more the result of the effectiveness of measures in place, rather than the lack of severity of the virus. He said Maryland is about two weeks behind the schedules of New York and Louisiana, two of the states hit hardest by the pandemic.
Although discussions of a return to normalcy have started, Hogan said a focus on the present is as important as ever.
“There are some very real reasons for hope and optimism right now, and there is clearly a light at the end of this tunnel,” Hogan said, "but exactly how and when we will get to that light is going to be up to each and every one of us.”