Larry Hogan, Maryland governor, says South Korea sent 500K coronavirus tests

Larry Hogan, Maryland governor, says South Korea sent 500K coronavirus tests

Maryland obtained half a million COVID-19 tests from South Korea through a bit of spousal diplomacy, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday — a diagnostics coup for his state as President Trump tells governors to take the lead in detecting infections.

Mr. Hogan, a Republican, said Seongnam-based LabGenomics sent 5,000 kits, which will allow the state to run 500,000 tests.

The governor’s wife Yumi, a Korean immigrant, worked the phones and helped broker the confidential deal, a project they dubbed “Operation Enduring Friendship.”

“I want to sincerely thank our Korean partners for assisting us in our fight against his common, hidden enemy. Kamsahamnida,” Mr. Hogan said, using the Korea word for “thank you.”

The governor said they spent three weeks combating 13-hour time differences and red tape across multiple agencies to get the shipment. Mr. Hogan and the first lady on Saturday greeted a Korean Air plane carrying the kits on the tarmac of BWI Airport.

Mr. Hogan seemed to be heeding Mr. Trump’s call for states to take the lead on coronavirus testing while the federal government plays a supporting role.

“They want the states to take the lead, and we have to go out and do it ourselves, and so that’s exactly what we did,” Mr. Hogan said.
The governor said the federal government “has been helping” with some things, citing its use of the Defense Production Act to manufacture ventilators and testing swabs.

Mr. Trump is prodding states to look beyond state laboratories and tap into commercial labs that can process more tests, instead of criticizing his team in Washington.

He said his administration on Monday provided governors with a list of labs that have excess capacity, because some governors “didn’t understand it.”

He singled out Mr. Hogan, who touted his imported tests hours earlier, and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who’s been critical of Mr. Trump in television appearances.

Many governors say Mr. Trump is right— they do have lab capacity. But they want the federal government to help them procure items like swabs, chemical reagents and protective equipment for lab workers.

Mr. Trump on Monday appeared to lose patience with Democratic governors who say the administration hasn’t done enough to expand testing, comparing the pleas to cries for ventilators that ended up exceeding need.

“Now they scream ‘Testing, Testing, Testing,’ again playing a very dangerous political game. States, not the Federal Government, should be doing the Testing — But we will work with the Governors and get it done. This is easy compared to the fast production of thousands of complex Ventilators!” Mr. Trump tweeted Monday.

Mr. Hogan said the South Korean tests cost about $9 million. He said it was a worthwhile investment, as Maryland tries to reopen safely after recording nearly 14,000 cases and over 430 deaths.

The outbreak hit South Korea hard in February, making it the second epicenter after China.

It has been praised for its effective and swift response to the spread of the virus, including advanced testing capabilities, and has been exporting test kits to several countries.

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