ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Maryland received half a million test kits from South Korea, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday, saying his wife First Lady Yumi Hogan helped to close a deal with a laboratory there.
Hogan said he and the First Lady received the test kits Saturday morning at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. A Korean Air Boeing 777 arrived without passengers but instead with 500,000 test kits, giving Maryland the capability of increasing testing.
It was the first-ever direct flight from Seoul to Maryland.
The testing kits came from LabGenomics as a part of Operation Enduring Friendship.
Hogan recalled meeting with the South Korean president earlier this year.
“He was so proud of my wife, and he said that they considered me… a son-in-law to the Korean people, and I considered it quite an honor for him to say that that night. But I had no idea how much that would truly come to mean these two very long months later,” Hogan said.
The federal government has also purchased tests from South Korea, but this is the first sale brokered to an individual state. The tests will cost Maryland $9 million.
“$9 million to try to keep hundreds of millions of people safe and to protect thousands of lives and to get our economy back on track seems like a pretty worthwhile investment,” the governor said.
On Saturday, First Lady Yumi Hogan and I stood on the tarmac at @BWI_Airport to welcome the first ever Korean Air passenger plane, carrying a very important payload of LabGun #COVID19 test kits which will give MD the capability of performing half a million coronavirus tests. pic.twitter.com/Elf0ADIRnJ
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) April 20, 2020
The New York Times first reported that tests arrived after Hogan and his wife, “a Korean immigrant who speaks fluent Korean” helped secure the final deal. They started speaking to South Korea about acquiring the tests on March 28, Hogan said.
“The state of Maryland owes an incredible debt of gratitude to the people of South Korea,” the governor said. “As Maryland begins its reopening and recovery, Marylanders should feel confident knowing that we have done everything in our power and gone to every length and used every tool at our disposal to defeat this deadly virus.”
The governor credited the First Lady with helping secure the deal.
“She truly is a champion of this operation,” he said.
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So far, about 71,000 coronavirus tests have been administered in the state. Hogan said these tests will be used “right away.”
“This half a million tests is more than the four of the top five states in America have done so far in the entire COVID-19 crisis, so it’s a huge, huge step in the right direction,” Hogan said.
But the governor said they continue to search for more ways to ramp up the state’s testing capabilities.
“We’ve ramped up our labs, we’re continuing to ramp up the lab capability,” he added. “10,000 was a very aggressive goal — they’re gonna get mad at me for saying this — but I think I’m going to try to blow through that and do maybe a 200% of what their aggressive goal was and try to get up to 20,000 tests a day.”
He also made mention of comments from President Donald Trump that states should take their own initiative when it comes to finding testing supplies and other equipment.
“The (Trump) Administration made it clear over and over again that 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,” he said.
Hogan said while expanded testing will be key to reopening Maryland, he does not want to open parts of the state piecemeal.
“Certain areas don’t have as bad of an infection rate. It may be because they haven’t done enough testing. What we don’t want is to have the neighbor next door come over if you open everything, then they’re going to be flooded with more infected folks,” he said.
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said he salutes Gov. Hogan for his “continued strong and steady leadership, and to our extraordinary First Lady, Yumi Hogan, for her intervention and involvement in securing these much-needed and life-saving test kits.”
“The widespread use of testing conducted by the South Korean government has been cited as a chief catalyst for the sharp decline of infections in that country. ” He said in part. “Given the absence of a strong federal coordinated response, states have had to fill the void of national leadership. Fortunately here in Maryland, we have a governor who is relentless in fighting for the resources that we need to combat this pandemic effectively and to protect our citizens.”