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June 02, 2020

Congressional Delegation Urges Hogan to Release Details of COVID-19 Test Plan

Credit: Maryland Matters, Bruce DePuyt

With Maryland due to submit a COVID-19 testing plan to the Centers for Disease Control Saturday, Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation are urging Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) to release the plan publicly.

They also want him to spell out how he intends to direct testing effort to best serve communities of color.

The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which became law on April 24, included $205 million for Maryland.

As a condition for receiving those funds, states are required to submit a testing plan to the CDC by Saturday.

“As part of this plan, we urge you to outline how you will target testing resources to the hardest hit communities in Maryland, particularly communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” the Democratic lawmakers wrote.

“Additionally, we urge you to make your plan submission public so Marylanders have a full understanding of the State’s testing goals and how these federal resources will be put to use.”

Lawmakers called the racial disparities in Maryland’s coronavirus infection and mortality rates “disturbing.”

For the COVID-19 cases that have race and ethnicity data available, Black Marylanders comprise more than 35% of COVID-19 cases and over 40% of deaths, despite only making up 30% of the population. Hispanics make up 10% of Maryland’s population and represent 30% of cases, they wrote.

Lawmakers also pressed the governor on the availability of tests, an issue that members of the General Assembly are raising with renewed vigor.

“While the State is making progress to expand testing capacity, we are still hearing from localities that more testing capacity is needed, which will be particularly important as the state continues to move forward with reopening,” the delegation wrote.

In an executive order signed this week, Hogan moved Maryland fully into Phase 1 of its reopening plan. That decision, he said, was made possibility by recent increases in the state’s testing capability.

Maryland now has 11 drive-through testing sites where residents can get a COVID-19 test without an appointment, and a number of pharmacies and retailers are offering screenings as well.

The state has now conducted more than 300,000 tests, Hogan told reporters Thursday. And deputy health secretary Fran Phillips said this week the state is nearly completion on an effort to test all residents and staff at all 227 nursing homes.

But Democrats continue to press Hogan to disclose the status of the 5,000 LabGenomics test kits the state purchased from South Korea. Several members of the legislature hounded the governor this week on social media.

The letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Benjamin L. Cardin and Reps. Steny H. Hoyer, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, John P. Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, Anthony G. Brown, Jamie B. Raskin, and David J. Trone.

The administration declined to comment on the letter.