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Maryland's First Lady key, in state securing much needed COVID-19 test kits

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Maryland Governor's Office
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(l-r) Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. First Lady Yumi Hogan at BWI-Marshall Airport greeting South Korean airplane delivering COVID-19 test kits

Maryland has secured a half million coronavirus test kits from a South Korean company.  The tests came in over the weekend after Hogan and his wife, Yumi, had been working on a confidential project known as Operation Enduring Friendship.

After six weeks of many of the nation’s governor’s shouting from the mountains to the federal government that they lack the necessary Covid-19 tests for citizens (among other much needed supplies for hospitals and healthcare workers). Most famously, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo publicly lamented how states were bidding—competing with each other for much needed equipment such as ventilators, which drove up the price. What’s more, according to Cuomo, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would jump in with bids and drive up the cost of the equipment even more. Thereby, the states were not just competing between themselves, but with the federal government.

Over the last few weeks there’s been mixed messaging from the Trump Admnistration, among the latest to the states regarding COVID-19 testing could be summed up as this: “You’re on your own.”

President Trump, in his daily briefings in would assert that the states have all the tests they need. Governors have soundly and repeatedly disagreed as the death tolls in their states steadily increases, with African-Americans being disproportionately affected at an alarming rate.

Monday, Maryland Republican Governor Larry made an announcement that would give his state a much welcomed and boost in flattening the curve in the battle against the novel coronavirus in his state. 

As Monday, The Maryland Department of Health is reported 13,684 COVID-19 cases in the state.  Baltimore County, Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County report the highest cases. Over 57,000 residents tested negative for the virus. There are 516 residents who have died from related complications. For more information on Maryland COVID-19 data click here.

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Hogan’s announcement was that Maryland had acquired 500,000 COVID-19 tests from labs in South Korea after Hogan with the aid Korean born First Lady Yumi Hogan closed the deal. The tests would cost the state of Maryland $9 million, but Hogan said if the tests could save lives, it’s worth it. The effort, according to Hogan was in coordination with the USDA, the FDA and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence say it was unnecessary for Hogan to get the COVID-19 tests from overseas.  They deny claims made by the governor, who has said state health officials haven't been able to access enough tests. White House officials say Hogan's request could have certainly been met and there is a surplus of coronavirus tests should any other state need to increase their resources.

Hogan reiterated that from the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, one of the biggest problems has been the lack of availability of testing. “Adequate testing is one of the four critical building blocks of our ‘Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery,” said Hogan.

The test kits arrived Saturday morning, and the Governor and First Lady stood on the tarmac BWI-Marshall Airport to welcome a Korean Air plane carrying them. t was the first-ever direct freight flight from Incheon Airport to BWI-Marshall. “The 500,000 test capacity is roughly equal to the total amount of testing that has been completed by 4 of the top 5 states in America combined,” said Hogan.

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Trump is coordinating with state governors to secure more coronavirus testing.  He says he spoke with all 50 governors and connected them with a list of labs in each state which can help provide more testing kits.  Trump believes the states should lead the efforts in ensuring their local hospitals have the resources to diagnose coronavirus.  He added some governors, saying Governor Hogan and Governor J. B. Pritzker of Illinois, didn't understand the full capacity of their resources before asking for federal assistance.  The President announced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will be visiting the White House tomorrow to further discuss resources and availability.

In a tweet, Hogan said he was grateful to President Trump for sending the list of federal labs and generously offering Maryland use of them for COVID19 testing. “Accessing these federal labs will be critical for utilizing the 500,000 tests we have acquired from South Korea”, said Hogan. But speaking on CNN Monday night Hogan said he understood completely and had no idea what the president was talking about.

This acquisition effort of the COVID-19 tests began on March 28 when the First Lady and the Governor called Korea’s Ambassador to the U.S. and spoke of the “special relationship” between Maryland and the Republic of Korea. That call set in motion 22 days of round-the-clock vetting and negotiations. “Each part of this international collaboration was unprecedented,” said Hogan. “Thanks President Moon and other South Korean partners, along with 8 Maryland state agencies and the First Lady, who was “truly a champion” of this effort.”

The Governor says First Lady Yumi Hogan is the first Asian First Lady in the history of Maryland. “She is also the very first Korean American First Lady of any state in the history of the United States, which is why Maryland is proud to have such a special bond with South Korea,” said Hogan.