‘Eventually, it was clear that waiting around for the president to run the nation’s response was hopeless,’ says Gov. Larry Hogan
The Republican governor of Maryland published a withering account of President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, outlining how the federal government failed to offer states support on testing and even added to their burden, and including this lament:
‘I’m a GOP governor. Why didn’t Trump help my state with coronavirus testing?’
— Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland
In an essay published in the Washington Post that’s excerpted from a forthcoming book, Gov. Larry Hogan describes how he turned to his South Korean wife, Yumi, for help in procuring vital test kits from her home country by asking President Moon Jae-in to connect Maryland with LabGenomics, a medical testing company.
Seoul sent Maryland a half-million tests at a cost of $9 million. “It was a bargain considering the $2.8 billion in revenue we projected the pandemic would cost Maryland,” Hogan wrote.
Even then, Maryland had to take extra precautions to secure the tests by driving them to a warehouse at an undisclosed location. That was after the federal government seized 3 million N95 masks purchased by Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, like Hogan a Republican governor of a typically “blue” state.
“We weren’t going to let Washington stop us from helping Marylanders,” said Hogan.
The test-kit purchase was necessary after Hogan and other governors watched Trump consistently play down the threat of the virus, failing to “issue public warnings, draw up a 50-state strategy, or dispatch medical gear or lifesaving ventilators from the national stockpile to American hospitals.”
“Eventually, it was clear that waiting around for the president to run the nation’s response was hopeless; if we delayed any longer, we’d be condemning more of our citizens to suffering and death,” he wrote.
Hogan recounted how Trump responded to news of the first U.S. case of COVID-19 while at Davos in January, immediately insisting during a friendly CNBC interview that it was “totally under control.” The U.S. now has 3.49 million confirmed cases, and 137,420 people have died, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
“So many nationwide actions could have been taken in those early days but weren’t. While other countries were racing ahead with well-coordinated testing regimes, the Trump administration bungled the effort,” Hogan wrote.
The first CDC test was faulty, and burdensome regulations delayed private U.S. labs from coming up with accurate tests. As Trump tweeted and told reporters that “anyone can have a test,” the reality on the ground was far different.
“The resulting disorganization would delay mass testing for almost two months and leave the nation largely in the dark as the epidemic spread,” Hogan wrote.
At the National Governors Association winter meeting in February, Hogan, current chairman of that bipartisan group, were addressed by public health experts, including Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who “was already widely admired but whose awesome knowledge and straight-talking style hadn’t yet made him a national rock star,” as well as virologist and CDC director Robert Redfield.
“They hit us with detailed presentations and the unfiltered truth, as well as it was known then,” Hogan recalled. There were dire forecasts, he noted: that the outbreak would become a catastrophe, that the death toll could be significant, that the coronavirus was much more contagious than SARS. “You have to follow the science — that’s where the answers lie,” the governor wrote.
During a private dinner with Trump after the event, Hogan described himself as having been aghast when the president heaped praise on President Xi Jinping of China; Prime Minister Abe of Japan, whom Hogan said Trump described as his buddy “Shinzo”; and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, before saying he didn’t like dealing with President Moon. “The South Koreans were ‘terrible people,’ he said, and he didn’t know why the United States had been protecting them all these years. ‘They don’t pay us,’ Trump complained,” related Hogan’s essay.
Other criticisms of Trump in the essay include his falsely blaming the Obama administration for the CDC’s faulty tests and his bragging that the U.S. was testing more than anybody in the world.
“This was true in absolute numbers, since we are a much bigger country, but we’d tested far fewer per capita than the Koreans had — 1,048 tests per million people vs. South Korea’s 6,764 per million — and of course that was the only figure that mattered,” said Hogan.