With Thanksgiving just days away, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan reminded residents to take coronavirus seriously.
“The more seriously we take it, the faster we’ll be able to get it under control,” he said during a news conference Monday.
Hogan said he can’t understand how the state and nation have moved from being shocked at a single virus-related death in March to not being moved at all by a dozen people dying per day in Maryland and nationwide deaths moving past 250,000.
As hospitals throughout Maryland reach capacity due to a widely anticipated fall spread of the virus, Hogan shot back at those who think they have the right to walk around in public without a mask.
“It’s sort of like saying ‘I have the constitutional right to drive drunk, or to not wear a seat belt or to not follow the speed limit.’ We’re talking about a quarter of a million people dying, already. More than the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War added together. Which part don’t you understand? Wear the mask. … We did it in 1918, I don’t know why we can’t do it now.”
The state currently requires all residents to wear a mask in public indoor spaces as well as outside where social distancing can’t be maintained. Hogan conducted most of the spaced-out news conference while wearing a mask.
Hogan also asked Marylanders to be especially vigilant about travel and social gatherings this week.
In an effort to remind people of their duty to control the spread of the virus, all cellphone users registered in Maryland will receive an alert from the state. The message will go out at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
Hogan mentioned a recent incident at an Anne Arundel County ice cream shop that led to arrests of people who harassed store employees after being asked to wear a mask. He also congratulated communities in Maryland that will participate in state-supported social distancing and mask-compliance checks.
Recently, the state restricted the capacity of restaurants for indoor dining and mandated a 10 p.m. end to alcohol sales. Hogan said contact tracing showed that as the night wore on, many people became less concerned with social distancing.
“Businesses and individuals who blatantly violate the public health orders are endangering themselves, and friends and neighbors as well,” he said.
Concerned residents can report violations to state police at 833-979-2266 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Maryland State Police will be working to support local authorities in areas that are popular with diners and drinkers, such as Bel Air, Silver Spring and Baltimore City. These “compliance units” will be stationed in these areas so they can quickly investigate reports of state law violations.
In addition, Hogan was asked about how President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the election to President-elect Joe Biden might affect the state’s ability to handle the virus in 2021 and manage vaccination efforts.
“We are in the middle of a deadly crisis,” Hogan said, noting that Biden will be sworn into office on Jan. 20. “And we are about to hit the worst peak. … And the incoming administration is not getting cooperation from the outgoing administration, and that is a scary situation.”
In regards to vaccination plans, Hogan said the state is ready with a rollout program, but there still is a lot of uncertainty as to how many doses Maryland will initially receive. However, he stressed how positive it is that a number of vaccine candidates have shown strong effectiveness in clinical trials.
“It’s good we have multiple competing vaccines all getting to the finish line, because not one is going to have worldwide capability,” he said.
Before the end of the session, Hogan also asserted that there had been no problem with hundreds of thousands of test kits the state purchased from a supplier in South Korea, in spite of recent stories saying they had not been used.
He called a recent story in The Washington Post “a regurgitation,” saying “there is no news, we have not had a single problem with one test kit,” while saying that the problem was not with the kits, but with the medical equipment, such as swabs needed to take samples and reagents used to process them.
“We have never had a problem with one test kit that came from Korea,” Hogan said.