Frustrated by Lack of Coronavirus Tests, Maryland Got 500,000 From South Korea

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Frustrated by Lack of Coronavirus Tests, Maryland Got 500,000 From South Korea

When President Trump told governors that they needed to step up their efforts to secure medical supplies, Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland took the entreaty seriously and negotiated with suppliers in South Korea to obtain coronavirus test kits.

“The No. 1 problem facing us is lack of testing,” said Mr. Hogan, a Republican, who has been among the many critics of the Trump administration’s repeated claims that states have adequate testing provided by the federal government. “We can’t open up our states without ramping up testing.”

In recent days, his wife, Yumi Hogan, a Korean immigrant who speaks fluent Korean, had been on the phone in the middle of the night helping to secure the final deal with two labs to sell Maryland the tests.

“Luckily we had a very strong relationship with Korea,” Mr. Hogan said. “But it should not have been this difficult.”

On Saturday, a Korean Air flight arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Airport carrying 5,000 test kits, which officials said would give the state the ability to make 500,000 new tests. The Food and Drug Administration and other agencies gave their seal of approval for the kits as the plane was landing.

“I was frosted because my team was saying that the F.D.A. approval was going to hold it up,” Mr. Hogan said in a telephone interview. “I didn’t care and was going to get the tests anyway.”

So far, Maryland has conducted 71,577 tests for the virus, and nearly 14,000 infections have been recorded, a number that continues to rise. More than 500 people have died in the state.

A number of South Korean vendors were considered for the new test kits, and ultimately the state went with LabGenomics.

Mr. Hogan, Ms. Hogan and a group of state officials greeted the flight to receive the kits on Saturday. The new tests, once they have passed muster in two local labs, will be distributed to the testing centers the state has set up in sporting fields, repurposed vehicle emissions testing centers and other locations.

“We want to get to the point where we can test as many people as possible,” Mr. Hogan said, noting that the state, like most others, has been limited to testing only the very sick and emergency and health care workers.

Expanded testing capacity will go to high-priority areas, such as nursing and group homes, expanded drive-through sites, primary care practices and urgent care centers.

Mr. Hogan has been among the many critics of the Trump administration’s repeated claims that states have adequate testing provided by the federal government. Other states, desperate for things like personal protective equipment and other medical gears, have moved to acquire it, often stealthily, from other nations.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence said there was “a sufficient capacity of testing across the country today for any state in America” to help the nation emerge from the coronavirus shutdown, something that Mr. Hogan and multiple other governors from both parties disputed.

  • Updated April 11, 2020

    • When will this end?

      This is a difficult question, because a lot depends on how well the virus is contained. A better question might be: “How will we know when to reopen the country?” In an American Enterprise Institute report, Scott Gottlieb, Caitlin Rivers, Mark B. McClellan, Lauren Silvis and Crystal Watson staked out four goal posts for recovery: Hospitals in the state must be able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalization, without resorting to crisis standards of care; the state needs to be able to at least test everyone who has symptoms; the state is able to conduct monitoring of confirmed cases and contacts; and there must be a sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days.

    • How can I help?

      The Times Neediest Cases Fund has started a special campaign to help those who have been affected, which accepts donations here. Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities. More than 30,000 coronavirus-related GoFundMe fund-raisers have started in the past few weeks. (The sheer number of fund-raisers means more of them are likely to fail to meet their goal, though.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • How do I get tested?

      If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the C.D.C. recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance — because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance — you won’t be able to get tested.

    • How does coronavirus spread?

      It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can be carried on tiny respiratory droplets that fall as they are coughed or sneezed out. It may also be transmitted when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our face.

    • Is there a vaccine yet?

      No. Clinical trials are underway in the United States, China and Europe. But American officials and pharmaceutical executives have said that a vaccine remains at least 12 to 18 months away.

    • What makes this outbreak so different?

      Unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine, and little is known about this particular virus so far. It seems to be more lethal than the flu, but the numbers are still uncertain. And it hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions — not just those with respiratory diseases — particularly hard.

    • What if somebody in my family gets sick?

      If the family member doesn’t need hospitalization and can be cared for at home, you should help him or her with basic needs and monitor the symptoms, while also keeping as much distance as possible, according to guidelines issued by the C.D.C. If there’s space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently.

    • Should I stock up on groceries?

      Plan two weeks of meals if possible. But people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty shelves, the supply chain remains strong. And remember to wipe the handle of the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

    • Can I go to the park?

      Yes, but make sure you keep six feet of distance between you and people who don’t live in your home. Even if you just hang out in a park, rather than go for a jog or a walk, getting some fresh air, and hopefully sunshine, is a good idea.

    • Should I pull my money from the markets?

      That’s not a good idea. Even if you’re retired, having a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds so that your money keeps up with inflation, or even grows, makes sense. But retirees may want to think about having enough cash set aside for a year’s worth of living expenses and big payments needed over the next five years.

    • What should I do with my 401(k)?

      Watching your balance go up and down can be scary. You may be wondering if you should decrease your contributions — don’t! If your employer matches any part of your contributions, make sure you’re at least saving as much as you can to get that “free money.”


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