Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday the state received a major gift from South Korea: the delivery of 500,000 coronavirus tests.
Hogan credited his wife, Yumi, a Korean American, and called her a “champion” in the negotiations of the plan called “Operation Enduring Friendship” scheduled to go into effect immediately.
“The state of Maryland owes an incredible debt of gratitude to the people of South Korea,” Hogan said. “This is the first step. There’s still a whole lot of work to be done, but it puts us in a tremendous position. It sets us up to spread these out across the state.”
When asked during a press conference in Annapolis how much it cost to acquire the tests, which were delivered Saturday, Hogan said about $9 million.
“Nine million dollars to try and keep thousands of people safe and protect thousands of lives and to get our economy back on track seems like a pretty worthwhile investment,” he said. “This is not the end of the process at all.”
The state Department of Health would organize where and when tests would be distributed.
As of 10 a.m. Monday, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties have recorded the most confirmed cases in the state with more than 6,000.
Out of the 13,564 confirmed cases, approximately 5,064 are Black residents.
The previous goal for testing stood at 10,000 per day, but Hogan wants to increase that to 20,000 tests per day.
Hogan said the federal government has tried to provide states more resources such as implementing the Defense Production Act that provides money to produce more swabs for coronavirus testing.
“The administration made it clear over and over again they want the states to take the lead and we have to go out and do it ourselves,” the governor said. “So that’s exactly what we did.”
Hogan plans to announce later this week on the state’s recovery plan to ramp up testing and tracing of patients to reopen the economy. He said Friday the state must see a downward trajectory of 14 straight days of hospitalizations, beds in intensive care units and coronavirus deaths.
“As Maryland begins its reopen and recovery, Marylanders should feel confident knowing that we have done everything in our power … to defeat this deadly virus,” he said.
Meanwhile, presiding officers in the Maryland General Assembly released a statement that lawmakers will not convene for a special session next month.
The coronavirus pandemic forced legislators to end the 90-day session on March 18, nearly three weeks earlier than scheduled.
“Legislators in every community in Maryland are working to help their constituents through this historic pandemic and that’s where their focus should remain.” House Speaker Adrienne Jones said in a statement. “After consulting with health experts, this is the best course of action at this time. We will get through this together — with every branch of government working as a team until we can safely return.”
Also on Monday, the state’s Office of Legal Counsel wrote a recommendation for barber shops and salons to schedule appointments for essential employees such as military personnel and first responders.
The OLC recommendation stipulates that those employees must present a letter to the shop owner verifying their professional grooming requirements. Only one customer can enter the shop or salon at a time and both the customer and staff must wear face coverings.
“It is generally assumed that this enforcement recommendation will be used for … essential workers required to maintain certain, well-documented grooming standards as part of their profession, or where ungroomed hair could pose a safety risk,” the office wrote.