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Maryland Gov. Hogan’s coronavirus precautions: tests, masks, fewer staff

Wearing a mask, Gov. Larry Hogan salutes Maryland State Police Trooper of the Year Kashef Khan in Sykesville on Wednesday.
Wearing a mask, Gov. Larry Hogan salutes Maryland State Police Trooper of the Year Kashef Khan in Sykesville on Wednesday. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has taken precautions since March in hopes of avoiding contracting the coronavirus, as has happened to President Donald Trump.

Hogan has sharply reduced his travel and public events, limited the number of people around him, enacted screening protocols at the State House and required social distancing practices. Hogan wears a mask regularly in public, and he and his wife, Yumi Hogan, are tested weekly for the coronavirus.

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The Republican governor has not tested positive, according to his spokesman, Mike Ricci. Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford also is tested regularly, with his most recent test on Sept. 25, Ricci said Friday.

Saturday’s Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Northwest Baltimore may present the most striking and widely seen contrast to prepandemic times for the governor.

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Typically, Maryland governors mingle during the afternoon in the corporate tents. The state Department of Commerce woos current and potential Maryland business owners at a taxpayer-funded tent. The governor caps the day by presenting the ceremonial Woodlawn Vase on national television to the winning jockey and horse owner, with several people crowding around a microphone on an infield stage.

This year, there will be no parties at corporate tents, no Infield Fest packed with revelers and no grandstand filled with race-watchers. The Maryland Jockey Club must adhere to state rules dictating a 250-spectator limit, with those spots granted to horse owners and limited guests.

Ricci said the Hogans will be at Pimlico for only about an hour, and the governor will award the Woodlawn Vase “at what we expect will be a modified presentation.”

Hogan’s actions stand in contrast to those of Trump, who has held large political rallies while running for reelection and ridiculed those who wear masks regularly, including his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Hogan posted good wishes on his social media accounts Friday morning: “Yumi and I are wishing President Trump and the First Lady a speedy recovery. Our thoughts and our prayers are with them both.”

The governor has not been in-person contact with the president for many months. Even though Trump came to Baltimore’s Fort McHenry twice — in May for a Memorial Day speech and in August when Vice President Mike Pence spoke as part of the GOP convention — Hogan declined to attend.

The last time Hogan saw Trump was in February, at a National Governors Association event in Washington.

Hogan is a cancer survivor, putting him at greater risk of complications should he contract the coronavirus. The 64-year-old governor noted his risk factors when asked whether he would eat inside at a restaurant when he eased restrictions on indoor dining in June.

“I am over 60. I’m a cancer survivor. So, I check a few boxes that are in the vulnerable population. I would not feel comfortable dining inside, and if I were going to a restaurant, I would prefer to sit outside, which is much safer,” Hogan said.

In addition to protecting his health, Hogan expressed concern for Marylanders and sought to set an example. Before Easter, his voice cracked with emotion as he urged families not to gather for the major Christian holiday, a day that’s also celebrated as a sign of spring.

Gov. Larry Hogan listens during an Aug. 27, 2020, news conference at the State House in Annapolis to discuss education.
Gov. Larry Hogan listens during an Aug. 27, 2020, news conference at the State House in Annapolis to discuss education. (Pamela Wood/Baltimore Sun)

When conducting an interview in July with The Baltimore Sun about his political memoir, he arranged for the meeting to take place outdoors and socially distanced — and he expressed reservations about appearing on camera without a mask as he seeks to model healthy behavior.

Later in the summer, Hogan acknowledged during a news conference that he had slipped up in visiting with extended family, which was perhaps risky, especially given that his grandchildren had attended camp. At the time, Hogan was talking about how contact tracing in Maryland found that of those interviewed who tested positive, 44% had attended a family gathering in the days before their diagnosis.

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“You can just as easily get this virus just by going to work, in an office, or just by attending a backyard barbecue or hanging out with a group of family,” Hogan said.

Hogan has sharply limited media attendance at his news conferences. Journalists must wear masks, sit apart from one another and submit to a screening that involves a temperature check and answering questions about symptoms and possible exposure.

The governor’s office staff is also screened daily, and people who share offices “operate on a teleworking rotation,” Ricci said. Also, fewer people travel with Hogan compared to prepandemic times, Ricci said.

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