Larry Hogan, Ralph Northam, and Muriel Bowser Asked for a Federal Testing Site … Two Weeks Ago

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has been one of the most proactive governors — of either party — in his response to the COVID-19 crisis. But until yesterday, he nevertheless had not issued a stay at home order yet. He did so yesterday. By the end of the day, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser had done the same.

In Hogan’s statement announcing the stay-at-home order, he emphasized the import of workers within the DC Metro Area in sustaining the country’s national security, both those generally considered national security workers (he mentioned NSA and CyberCommand) and those specifically fighting this virus (he mentioned NIH and FDA).

In that context, Hogan mentioned that two weeks ago, Northam, Bowser, and he asked the President to designate DC Metro as a priority for response to the crisis, including by setting up a federal testing site so federal workers have a way to avoid getting their colleagues sick.

Two weeks ago, the three of us sent a joint letter to the President requesting that the national capital region be designated as a priority location for a federally supported COVID-19 testing site.  The Washington region is where national leaders are actually fighting this battle for the nation, and this region is about to be hit with the virus in the same way that some other major metropolitan areas have been.

We are home to more than 404,000 federal workers in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia.  The NIH and FDA are headquartered in Maryland, and these agencies are on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus.

Maryland is also home to institutions that are critical to the security of our nation, including the NSA and the U.S. Cyber Command.

Last week four employees at Fort Meade tested positive for COVID-19.

Federal workers at these institutions and all agencies of the federal government are and will continue to be getting sick.  And a major outbreak among our critical federal workforce could be catastrophic, crippling the national response.

In his statement, Hogan didn’t explicitly say that Trump had not yet delivered on that Federal testing site. But by end of day, Hogan published an op-ed with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer — President Trump’s current target of choice. In it, he repeated his request for a Federal testing site.

Keep “mission critical” federal workers healthy: While millions of Americans have begun working from home, “mission critical” federal employees and contractors are still reporting to work every day. More than 400,000 federal workers are based in the national capital region of Washington, Maryland and Virginia, including workers at the National Institutes of Health and FEMA. We can’t risk them getting sick when the nation is depending on their work and expertise to fight the pandemic. President Trump can help by establishing a federal testing site in the national capital region — an important step to identify sick federal workers and prevent them from infecting their colleagues.

I’m in flyover country, and I’m loathe to imagine that DC’s workers are any more important than my neighbors.

Nevertheless, the entire point of doing social distancing, for those of us who are either non-essential or can work from home, is to limit exposure for those who either need to keep vital parts of our economy running (like doctors and nurses, Amazon delivery drivers, and grocery store workers) or those who need to protect the country in other ways, even including the NSA.

Hogan’s comments yesterday suggest that President Trump didn’t even manage something really obvious and manageable: to make sure that critical federal workers have a way to ensure that they don’t infect other federal workers before they become symptomatic.

Indeed, hours after Hogan’s declaration, in Trump’s daily COVID rally, the President repeatedly bragged about our testing regime and — in yet another question from Yamiche Alcindor he tried to dodge — not only misstated the population of Seoul (possibly misreading the elevation for Seoul in its Wikipedia entry for its population), but also blamed Obama, and then insisted our testing is better than any other country’s.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You said several times that the United States has ramped up testing. I’ll just talk a little quicker — or a little louder.

Mr. President, you said several times that the United States has ramped up testing, but the United States is still not testing per capita as many people as other countries like South Korea. Why is that? And when do you think that that number will be on par with other countries?

And Dr. —

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, well, it’s — it’s very much on par.

Q Not per capita —

THE PRESIDENT: Look — look — per capita. We have areas of country that’s very tight. I know South Korea better than anybody. It’s a — very tight. Do you know how many people are in Seoul? Do you know how big the city of Seoul is?

Q But the question is about (inaudible).

THE PRESIDENT: Thirty-eight million people. That’s bigger than anything we have. Thirty-eight million people all tightly wound together.

We have vast farmlands. We have vast areas where they don’t have much of a problem. In some cases, they have no problem whatsoever. We have done more tests. What I didn’t — I didn’t talk about per capita. We have done more tests, by far, than any country in the world, by far.

Our testing is also better than any country in the world. And when you look at that, as simple as that looks, that’s something that’s a game changer, and every country wants that. Every country.

So rather than asking a question like that, you should congratulate the people that have done this testing, because we inherited — this administration inherited a broken system, a system that was obsolete, a system that didn’t work. It was okay for a tiny, small group of people, but once you got beyond that, it didn’t work.

We have built an incredible system to the fact, where we have now done more tests than any other country in the world. And now the technology is really booming.

I just spoke to — well, I spoke to a lot. I’m not going to even mention. I spoke to a number of different testing companies today, and the job that they’ve done and the job that they’re doing is incredible.

But when Abbott comes out and does this so quickly, it’s really unreal. In fact, one company, I have to say, that stands out in the job — and I think I can say this; I don’t want to insult anybody else — but Roche. Roche has been incredible in the testing job they’ve done. And they’re ramping it up exponentially. It’s up, up, up, up. And you should be saying congratulations instead of asking a really snarky question, because I know exactly what you mean by that.

You should be saying congratulations to the men and women who have done this job, who have inherited a broken testing system, and who have made it great. And if you don’t say it, I’ll say it. I want to congratulate all of the people. You have done a fantastic job.

And we will see you all tomorrow. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.

In a call with governors yesterday, Trump claimed that he hadn’t “heard about testing in weeks.”

The subtext of yesterday’s decision by the DC metro region’s elected leadership is that Trump couldn’t even manage a no-brainer request made two weeks ago that would help to keep this country’s most essential workers safe. Sure, Larry Hogan didn’t say that explicitly. But by partnering with someone whose complaints are sure to get noticed, Hogan made it clear that Trump is still failing to deliver on the most obvious requests.

35 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    Hogan’s comments yesterday suggest that President Trump didn’t even manage something really obvious and manageable: to make sure that critical federal workers have a way to ensure that they don’t infect other federal workers before they become symptomatic.

    How long did it take Trump to do something as obvious and manageable as getting Pence, Fauci, Birx, and others to stop standing shoulder to shoulder every afternoon at his presser? Or was that his way of saying that all these folks advising him are not critical federal workers?

    After all, we’re talking about Donald “I alone can fix it” Trump here.

    • TooLoose LeTruck says:

      Not sure he ‘alone can fix it’ but it’s looking more and more like he, all on his own, sure can screw things up.

  2. Pajaro says:

    I guess it would be difficult to review spy satellite data at home via your everyday ISP. So those people would have to go to the office. Possibly even lock down that facility and not allow anyone to go home, to pick up the virus and bring it back. That is pretty draconian, but if security a risk…. Alternatively these kinds of workers could be dispersed to other facilities away from population areas, a TDY of sorts. Apologies to their families, etc.

    I am guessing, but NIH and FDA positions are largely more bureaucratic and could easily be managed from workers staying home with internet service.

    True, these Governors and Mayor are pointing out, once again, the lack of any effective action. Not even the thought of it! Because, like the virus, the President just doesn’t care. Its all about him 24/7.

  3. daisyb says:

    I am glad to see Northam join forces with Hogan and Bowser in calling for a Federal testing site.

    I live in Virginia. We are trying to do what our governor asked us to do and stay home.

    But the lack of even modest rules of conduct for all (re, for example, shopping for food and cleaning supplies) continues to make life chaotic. Trump and his cohorts had succeeded in demonizing sensible “greater good” practices long before the pandemic. That “socialism” is routinely employed as a dirty-word epithet to attack behavior that would save lives has had some traction here.

    Northam is credited with closing “non-essential” businesses but this is a smoke and mirrors myth. An acquaintance manages a Guitar Center in Virginia. The GC corporate policy is “stay open.” Governor’s rules permit this. ( Northam’s edict indicated stores have to adhere to strict cleaning protocols and must limit number of people in the store to 10.) Guitar Center is a very tactile place. Hundreds of instruments are everywhere for customers to handle, which they do. My friend says GC corporate is unable to supply the required hand sanitizers and other cleaning materials. He has tried to buy these kinds of things on the local economy without success. He says his store is busy.

    Lately, you can find the US CEOs (occasionally Zoom broadcasting from the safety of their living rooms) defending decisions to insist that their businesses stay open. Among a long list, Michael’s Craft store is open. Michael’s major competitor, Hobby Lobby, is staying open because the CEO says God came down from heaven and told her to keep the stores open. Our local Walmart has a tub of grease cutting product at the door . . . no effective sanitizers for hands or surfaces can be found on the shelves or for use by shoppers.

    I guess they need to keep craft stores open so we can buy glitter to bedazzle the wheel barrows we will be pushing through our neighborhood as we shout “bring out your dead. “

    Northam’s “only essential” businesses stay open rules, (like the rules in many other states ), are broad enough to drive a semi through. I have reached out to every elected official I can think of about this, to no (apparent) avail.

    Initially, Virginia was reporting the incidences of Corona Virus with details. They have stopped doing this. Of particular interest to many of us, are stats on infection which is linked to contact with an infected person versus “community spread” (no knowledge of contact with infected person). This information was originally shared, it has now vanished.

    I listen to Northam when he appears. He reminds me of Walter Mitty.

    • P J Evans says:

      Michael’s isn’t *all* open – the store I go is closed, and so is the JoAnn’s I’d be going to for mask-making materials. So is the Ross clothing store a few doors down from the Michael’s. Office Depot is doing order-and-pickup, as is Best Buy. (I’m in L.A. This is our new normal.)

      • daisyb says:

        From what I have been able to determine from chasing down the official corporate voices on the stores I mentioned in my post (have looked at others too) Michaels etc. are closed in states where the state government has forced them to close. This is similar to what I see from Guitar Center.

    • Pajaro says:

      What about gun stores, opened or closed in VA? They were finally closed down here, after some fuss about 2nd amendment, Cnstitution…blather from NRA. That was long after they sold out of handgun ammo. You can’t shoot a virus!

        • daisyb says:

          I see now that Hobby Lobby closed yesterday. It subsequently fired people by email. They offered no severance. They said, “it’s in the hands of God.”

          • vvv says:

            The Michael’s here south sub of Chi was open as of two days ago, i-net says it still is. I was advised they consider themselves an essential business because they “sell gloves and home-repair items”. There are various news stories and videos about Michaels’ workers having issues re social distancing and customer behaviour.
            Because of their on-line ordering issues (chair was listed “out of stock” but PC established was avail in-store) I had to go into the local Office Depot a couple daze ago to replace the chair I am sitting in as I type. It really looked like the 3 or 4 customers in there at 6:45PM (I went right before closing for obvious reasons) were just killing time, shopping.
            Gotta go now to watch Lightfoot and Pritzker presser …

            • daisyb says:

              NY Times did a piece calling out both Guitar Ctr and Michaels (among others) a few days ago. Today and previously, my local news stations show clips of crowded parking lots adjacent to not-in-any-way “essential” (read loop-hole-to-stay-open) businesses. On my local “Next Door” web page, posters report -in detail – that no gloves, cleaning supplies and/or any products useful to pandemic prep are available. The fabrics – bleach-able and hot-water cottons, pellon-type interfacing for filters – etc. are long gone. I ordered mask- adaptable hepa filters from Amazon a week ago. They are now showing as sold out. This, as just today, the authorities are starting to acknowledge that masks are useful for protecting the uninfected.

              • P J Evans says:

                I went online to get muslin for masks – the nearest store where I could pick up is five miles away, and in a difficult location to get to. I don’t know how they chose which stores to have open – but they don’t seem to have considered customer locations.

                • vvv says:

                  FWIW, my daughter has been going to a grocery about 5 miles away (there are at least 5 w/in 2 miles) specifically because it’s “in a difficult location to get to”. The net effect is, no one else goes there so they are better-stocked as they haven’t run through their merch.

      • joejim says:

        Friend in Seattle saw a man carrying a big pistol in his belt in line at the grocery store. She was glad to keep 6ft away from him. We are not anything like an open carry state.

        The police have stopped making arrests and detaining people apart from extreme incidents.
        Unfortunately this includes stalkers and people violating restraining orders. I am sure the downtown pharmacies are crazy with shoplifters, and I am afraid to walk at night, but for the most part I agree that if someone is smoking or dealing meth in broad daylight, let them be, rather than risking 12 lives to process them, and 120 lives in the pod at the country jail pod.

  4. Fran of the North says:

    Governor Hogan interview on NPR this am: @~4:30 into the interview

    “Well let me ask you about that: President Trump has suggested that the testing problems are over…”

    “Yeah, that’s just not true”

    Can’t link to the segment, scroll down to right above the summaries for previous days show:

  5. Duke says:

    The two year old in the Oval Office claims to be a “war time” leader.

    He is leading a war on the American people. His actions to date have been announced in public in advance. Every public institution in our country has been the target and now he has brought the advance to the people.

  6. BobCon says:

    A few weeks ago federal employees across the board were still going to their offices all around DC because agencies not only had not implemented teleworking, they hadn’t even developed plans. The heads were all afraid of doing anything that suggested that coronavirus was a threat, or else they were fully in the denial camp.

    Employees were continuing to work in buildings where other employees had called in sick with suspected cases, but due to test shortages nobody knew one way or the other whether anyone who had come into contact with suspected infected people were themselves infected, and management refused to let other employees stay away and telework.

    These people had been riding the DC Metro, commuter trains, buses and carpools, and of course going out to eat and socialize. Museums took only low key measures, again, for fear of angering Trump and his tools, and tourists then returned home.

    It’s no surprise that Trump is sitting on Hogan’s request for a testing center even for critical federal employees, because the GOP in general has been full of hate for federal workers. Like a lot of things, Trump and GOP think only in the narrowest of terms, and they can’t get it through their thick heads how this is a much bigger issue.

  7. Frank Probst says:

    It seems like every week I wonder how the testing got fucked up so badly, and every week, the testing is STILL fucked up really badly. I understand that the CDC’s original test was flawed. The timeline makes sense to me up to the point when people first realized that the CDC’s original test was flawed. After that, I don’t get it. We should have immediately switched to the WHO tests and started over from there. We don’t appear to have done so. Why? What happened there? It isn’t the science. The WHO test uses science that’s been well-established for at least 20 years. The equipment has gotten better and better (and more and more expensive) since then, but it’s still the standard equipment you’d find in a clinical infectious disease lab. So what the hell happened?

    • Pajaro says:

      I’ve wondered the same. The WHO test has been widely used in most other places, if there were faults they’d be known. Either racism or anti-Europe-ism, is simplest explanation.

      NM Governor just relaxed test criteria, asymtomatic people can be tested if exposed to a positive or in nursing homes. People don’t need a referral from a physician if they go for testing at a state lab. NM has tested the greatest number per capita to date, over 12,000 tests! Don’t look now but I think she is trying to show up Trump by doing things right.

      • P J Evans says:

        Given the influence of Miller and Pompeo, racism and anti-UN feeling seems most likely. It’s stupid, but that seems to be the norm for this maladministration.

    • Ken Muldrew says:

      Possibilities are two: incompetence or malicious intent. If you consider an incompetent administration starting out 3 weeks ago, is it possible that they could bluster their way through 21 days of, not just getting nothing done, but interfering with all efforts to mitigate the crisis? No. Impossible. But similarly, what are the chances that a malicious crew could hold everyone at bay for the same time period, screwing everything up so as to maximize pain, suffering and death? Again, you would think it to be impossible, the pitchforks would be through their necks long before 3 weeks had elapsed. But if you follow the path actually taken, how they make huge promises and bring out respected experts until everyone is calm, then backslide egregiously into chaos and hindering progress until just before people snap, then another show of remorse and listening to the experts, making promises…back and forth. It is a work of genius; professor Moriarty level evil genius, to have been able to thread that needle for so long. I’m not so sure that they can’t keep it up until the inevitable Malthusian limits finally put and end to it.

      • Tom says:

        Another factor may be Trump’s essentially passive view of his role in this situation. For example, telling the governors during their conference call the other day that he hadn’t heard about any problems with COVID-19 testing suggests the President expects the experts and other staff will keep him informed of developments, even when those same people know full well how much Trump dislikes bad news and those who deliver it to him. The idea that it might be his responsibility to take the initiative and ensure that he is up-to-speed on the status of testing doesn’t seem to occur to him: too much work.

        In preparing for and responding to the current pandemic, I think Trump wanted to avoid being seen to find anything valuable or useful in the policies and procedures President Obama left for him to deal with such a crisis, even if it meant the Trump team having to reinvent the wheel.

          • Tom says:

            That’s always a possibility. I think Trump will try to cast himself as the victim of: (i) an unprecedented global crisis that no-one could have foreseen; (ii) the broken system he inherited; (iii) state governors who failed to plan ahead, were slow to respond, and made unreasonable demands of the federal government; (iv) nurses and other healthcare workers who hoarded supplies or diverted them to the black market; and (v) the Chinese government, who failed to alert the world to the impending crisis. No matter how bad things get, Trump will claim that without him things would have been a lot worse.

            • Rayne says:

              Where have you been? He’s already cycled through (i) hoocoodanode, (ii) broke system he broke knocking off pandemic response, (iii) “the woman in Michigan” begging him for help, (v) Chinese “failed” by formally notifying WHO and the world on January 3.

              The only he hasn’t tried up until the last 48 hours is (iv) black market PPE — and that tells you he’s nearly run out of crayons OR there’s another problem he/they are trying to get out in front of. Like this one. I just wish I knew if there was a scam behind it instead of incompetence.

              • Tom says:

                I’d pick incompetence as it explains so much. Plus, I don’t think Trump ever expected or even wanted to be President so he never mentally prepared himself for the job by imaging how he would respond to various crisis scenarios. And I have been following the President’s various excuses and special pleadings; I was just summarizing them.

  8. Vinnie Gambone says:

    When it got here it was the Wuhan virus. Due to Trump’s delays, Trump’s minimizing the threat, and Trump’s inaction, in the USA it can now be accurately called Trump Virus.

    • Rayne says:

      It was never the Wuhan virus. That’s a political label. The virus is SARS-CoV-2; the disease it causes is COVID-19.

      That said, I’m fine with the idea that Trump owns this disease and the pandemic. Not just epidemic in the U.S. but its spread globally because he is responsible for the termination of the National Security Council’s pandemic response team.

  9. Worried says:

    I think we now have plenty of evidence that the priority of all Mr Trump’s public statements is to enhance his chances for re-election.
    Keeping the public, health care workers, first responders, etc. safe and taking this disease seriously conflicts with his priorities.
    There are now ample sound and video recordings of him saying things he later denies that should be cannon fodder for future political campaign ads

    • Tom says:

      And let’s not forget that the main reason Donald Trump wants to enhance his chances of re-election is because he knows he won’t face criminal prosecution for his wrongdoing as long as he’s sitting in the Oval Office.

  10. joejim says:

    That’s an incredibly frightening situation.

    Its like there is no enlightened public emergency planning on proactive testing design and using testing data. Nobody is prioritizing and looking ahead at who is vital and needs to be protected, or who, if sick, can transmit the virus to a huge population of especially vital or vulnerable people. It should be Emergency 101.

    Staff at assisted living facilities in Seattle aren’t being tested, even at the now dozen or more places where these staff have been exposed to colleagues who are now sick. Its been two weeks since a staff member at my mom’s place became sick, (now 3 and 2 residents are) and kitchen staff among others have yet to be tested.

    The health aids at these places work multiple jobs intertwined between facilities so the odds of widespread infection among these workers who have been exposed to sick colleagues is very high. In Seattle I knew of at least a dozen situations like this.

    I’ve also seen footage of a senior residence in NJ where the medics packed the whole place up and took them to urgent care, everyone, because so many were positive the presumption was that everyone was infected. That’s 80-100 beds, and a minimum of 80 health care workers, if you just count one aid per two patients on ventilators and that these patients must be monitored for 2 12 hour shifts.

    In any kind of emergency planning you would prioritize testing of people like that, because 40 of them can spread infection to 1000 or more elderly people. But there just isn’t anyone out there who has figure out proactive priorities.

  11. Fred Farklestone says:

    “I know South Korea better than anybody. It’s a very tight — do you know how many people are in Seoul?” he asked. “Do you know how big the city of Seoul is?”
    “Thirty-eight million people,” Trump said,”That’s bigger than anything we have. Thirty-eight million people, all tightly wound together.”

    That’s incorrect. Seoul has a population of nearly 10 million. The population of South Korea itself is roughly 51.5 million.

    • Worried says:

      In Wikipedia, just above population figure is the elevation of Seoul: 38 m…….
      How stupid can you be??????
      Not saying Mr Trump would check Wikipedia, but some one did.

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