Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that the White House plan to distribute 500 million COVID-19 testing kits has held up Maryland’s own efforts to get kits to its residents.
Speaking to reporters during a Wednesday news conference, Hogan could not say how many tests destined for Maryland were put on hold. But he said he mentioned his concern to White House officials “pretty forcefully” during a call with governors the day before.
“All of our vendors called us late Friday to say that the White House’s announcement on Friday had frozen all the orders and that they were taking all of the tests that were going to go to us and the other states,” the Republican governor said.
Asked about Hogan’s complaints, the White House disputed that its plan undercut states’ own supplies, and said it was reaching out to Hogan’s staff to try resolve any lingering issues.
President Biden’s plan “is specifically not allowed by contract to take away tests from state governments or U.S. commercial operations,” Tom Inglesby, senior adviser to the White House COVID-19 Response Team, said during a news briefing. “It is written into the contracts with the manufacturers. We know it’s a big country and there can be confusion at times.”
The Biden’s administration launched a plan to mail out four free, rapid, at-home coronavirus tests to any household that requests them.
The website to request tests went live on Tuesday and had about 48 million page visits by Wednesday afternoon, according to federal analytics. It wasn’t immediately clear how many tests had been ordered through the national program.
”They didn’t produce any new tests. They just took all the tests off the shelf that we were supposed to get on trucks to come here,” Hogan said.
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Inglesby said the administration had told governors that their own supplies shouldn’t be affected by Biden’s plan.
“And we have followed up with Gov. Hogan’s team to try to understand exactly what they’re hearing, and to help work out anything that they’re seeing on the ground,” Inglesby said. He said the administration would clarify with any manufacturer that “they have an obligation to fulfill their orders to states.”
But Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said Wednesday afternoon that the issue was not resolved.
“On Friday afternoon, our health procurement officer advised us that pending rapid test orders would be affected by the federal announcement. We relayed those details to the White House yesterday,” Ricci said.
“Mr. Inglesby responded and said he would look into it and get back to us, and we are still waiting to hear back from him,” Ricci continued. “We have developed plans for distributing these tests to the community immediately, and instead they have been diverted. We hope and expect the White House will take steps to resolve the issue.”
Hogan said the state still has a sufficient supply of rapid tests and the more sensitive polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests. “We do have tests fairly widely available,” he said.
The state has spent the last several weeks opening up additional testing locations adjacent to hospitals, in hopes of making it easier for people to get tested and to cut down on emergency room visits. Rapid tests and high-quality masks are being handed out at state-run testing and vaccination locations.