So, my fellow Marylanders, who are you going to believe: Trump or Hogan? President Donald Trump claims that Gov. Larry Hogan “didn’t understand” that he could have easily obtained all the coronavirus testing Maryland needed, right here at home, without making a deal with South Korea.
Who are you going to believe, the president who claimed falsely that “anyone who wants a test can get a test” or a governor who sized things up and decided Maryland had to take action of its own to test for the virus?
Who are you going to trust on this, a president who has made 18,000 false or misleading claims since he took office (according to The Washington Post fact-checker) or a governor who speaks firmly and without bluster about his state’s response to the deadly virus?
And who are you going to take seriously, a president who pretty much told governors they were on their own to deal with the virus or a governor who took decisive action, without waiting for signals from the White House, to protect as many of his citizens as possible?
“The administration made it clear over and over again they want the states to take the lead and we have to go out and do it ourselves,” Hogan says. “So, that’s exactly what we did.”
There’s no contest here, of course. A president who has lied as much as Trump has — and who continues to fill the air with bluster to try to cover his administration’s missteps in preparing for a national emergency — has no credibility. It is one of the worst scenarios you could imagine: a president millions of Americans don’t trust at a time when the country faces the worst public health crisis in a century. It’s no wonder that Marylanders turn to local and state leaders, starting with their governor, for honest leadership.
On Sunday, Hogan — still a Republican, last time we checked — came as close as he’s ever come to calling the president a liar, telling CNN that it was “absolutely false” for Trump to suggest governors weren’t doing everything they can to test for the virus more widely. “It’s not accurate to say there’s plenty of testing out there and the governors should just get it done,” said Hogan.
And, of course, Trump has been pushing to “reopen the economy” without having millions of tests readily available. That approaches an unprecedented level of presidential irresponsibility. We might be starting to catch up, but a nation of 328 million people has conducted just 4 million tests so far, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Hogan knows — because he apparently listens to health experts — that a key to gradually reopening society is testing to see who has the virus and who doesn’t. Anyone with common sense understands that.
So it was remarkable Monday afternoon to hear Hogan announce that Maryland would directly purchase kits good for 500,000 tests from a company in South Korea, a country that set the standard for early testing. Hogan’s wife, first lady Yumi Hogan, was born in South Korea. She got involved in closing the deal for the tests, and that’s great, but it also points to the nation’s lack of preparedness for a crisis that public health officials had modeled and predicted months ago.
Test kits, ventilators, face masks — much of the supply chain for those important products has moved outside of the traditional path from the federal government down to the states. When the president does not establish a national strategy for a national emergency, when he does not readily use his authority to rev up production and centralize supplies, you get the kind of chaos and stress we saw early on: States in bidding wars for ventilators, a national stockpile of protective equipment being quickly depleted and not sufficient for the states’ needs.
So no wonder Larry and Yumi Hogan used their relationship with South Korea to get tests for Maryland. Good for them, good for us. Under dire circumstances, the Hogans did what they believed had to be done.
There’s a lot of that going on at the local level: Small businesses making hand sanitizer, volunteers sewing face masks or acquiring them any way they can. Just the other day, the state’s largest public employee union received 20,000 surgical masks from an opera company.
After the Maryland Lyric Opera, based in Montgomery County, canceled its upcoming performances, its founder and artistic director, Brad Clark, had his associates find and purchase surgical masks to donate to men and women on the front lines of the pandemic. The masks went to hospitals and nursing facilities and to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Maryland.
Patrick Moran, president of AFSCME Maryland, picked up 20,000 of them last week. Moran, who has been sharply critical of the Hogan administration for not doing enough to protect state workers, said the masks will go to staff in state hospitals and youth facilities as well as to commercial vehicle inspectors, workers at truck weigh stations and maintenance workers in state buildings.
But, despite AFSCME’s pleadings, these masks are not the best for workers, including nurses and direct-care aides, who have contact with the public, Moran says. Front-line state employees, he says, deserve a more aggressive approach to acquiring top-quality masks from anywhere on the planet.
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Sounds like another assignment for Yumi Hogan.