Maryland Sen. Van Hollen criticizes ‘political messaging’ over coronavirus but expresses faith in health system

BETHESDA — Maryland’s U.S. senators expressed faith Friday in the handling of the new coronavirus, saying a vaccine is being developed as quickly as possible and that new testing capacity -- covered by insurance ---should help contain the respiratory disease.

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen said he hoped the White House would improve its messaging as Maryland and the nation seeks to keep the disease in check.


“This needs to be dealt with as a public health crisis and not a political crisis or political problem,” the Democrat said after visiting the vaccine research center at the National Institutes of Health along with Sen. Ben Cardin and U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin.

“I think it’s been very clear that at least at the very outset you had a lot of political messaging coming out of the White House and President Trump when they should have been letting the scientists guide the conversation," Van Hollen said..


“It’s very important people have the confidence in the information that they are getting,” he said. “I think we’re all pleased with the way this has been handled in Maryland and in Montgomery county. That’s a good model.”

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Maryland health officials on Thursday confirmed the state’s first three cases of the coronavirus, all in Montgomery County.

The Maryland state lab in Baltimore is currently testing people. Cardin told reporters at NIH that testing kits were being made available to private labs and “are now being delivered as we speak.”

Cardin said it is significant that the commercial lab tests have been classified as an essential health benefit.

“The good news is that it will be reimbursable under Medicare. It will be reimbursable under Medicaid,” the Democrat said.

Public health officials have said a vaccine is at least a year away.

Van Hollen said that is a relatively short time considering the trials that must be conducted to make sure the vaccine is safe.

“They are moving quickly – very quickly – for developing a vaccine by historical standards,” he said.