Top Maryland Democrats say the Hogan administration is ignoring their coronavirus-related health questions as the Republican governor begins reopening parts of the state.
At a virtual meeting of the Maryland legislature’s COVID-19 task force Wednesday, prominent lawmakers expressed frustration with Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration failing to make state health officials available for questioning.
“We have repeatedly asked for their attendance,” said House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, who added state health officials have cancelled on lawmakers four times.
Legislators are concerned that the state could be reopening too quickly, as Maryland’s death toll from the virus rose past 2,000 Wednesday. The state recently recorded its first known juvenile death related to the virus, with a 15-year-old Baltimore County girl dying this week after testing positive.
State Senate President Bill Ferguson said Hogan administration officials have yet to answer questions about their testing and tracing operations.
“We had asked that information be provided by May 20,” Ferguson said. “We have not received a response from the administration on testing, tracing and isolation.”
Hogan has announced expanded testing, allowing people without symptoms but who may have been exposed to the virus to be tested without a doctor’s order at select state testing sites. On Wednesday, the governor announced plans to administer coronavirus tests to all inmates and employees at state-run correctional facilities and juvenile justice centers.
Ferguson said he believes it’s “great” that Hogan announced expanding testing to asymptomatic Marylanders, but will believe it when he sees it.
He referenced the governor’s promise that the state’s unemployment website had been fixed while more than 100,000 people are still waiting to have their claims processed.
“I hope it’s not the same as the unemployment system being fixed,” Ferguson said.
Mike Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan, said the administration is “reviewing the various letters we have received from our legislators" in recent weeks.
“We remain committed to staying above the politics, and doing everything we can to find and fight the virus, from our expanded testing strategy to a robust contact tracing partnership with local officials,” Ricci added.
Maryland Policy & Politics
Meanwhile, local health officials said the Hogan administration is supplying tests and testing equipment for use for first responders and nursing homes
Local officials said they were unsure whether the tests were connected to the state’s touted purchase of 500,000 tests from South Korea.
“I don’t care where the tests come from, I just want more of them,” said Nilesh Kalyanaraman, Anne Arundel County Health Officer.
Howard County Health Office Maura J. Rossman agreed: “I don’t know where they came from Korea or elsewhere. We’re just grateful to have them.”
Rossman said she agreed that it made sense to reopen some parts of the state before others, noting that while some areas of Maryland have thousands of infections and hundreds of deaths, others have barely been touched.
Garrett County, for instance, reports just seven confirmed cases and zero deaths.
“What happens in Garrett County is very different than Howard County. We do need to be respectful there are differences regionally,” she said. “This pandemic is going to be around for quite a few more months. It’s not going to go away for some time. That is what we all need to communicate as we reopen.”