Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent efforts to protect his shipment came after the federal government seized three million masks ordered by Massachusetts.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday revealed that he used the Maryland National Guard and Maryland State Police to guard a massive shipment of coronavirus tests from South Korea in order to prevent them from being seized by the Trump administration.
In an interview with the Washington Post’s Robert Acosta, Hogan said he arranged for the plane to land at Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Baltimore, Maryland, with armed protection, rather than Washington Dulles International Airport in Easton, Virginia (a stone’s throw away from Washington D.C.) to ensure the shipment wasn’t confiscated by the federal government.
“We made sure it landed at BWI Airport instead of Dulles. It’s the first time a Korean Air passenger plane has ever landed at Baltimore-Washington International Airport,” Hogan said. “We landed it there with a large contingent of Maryland National Guard and Maryland State Police.”
Hogan said he took these extreme measures because the shipment of tests was “enormously valuable” for his state. Maryland has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, as the tiny state of just six million people has more than 23,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Nearly 1,100 Marylanders have died of the virus, according to the Maryland Department of Public Health.
The state, like many others, has also struggled with a shortage of COVID-19 tests and has been forced to obtain its own supplies due to the failures of the federal government. The Trump administration has failed to provide adequate testing from the very beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, and Trump himself initially declined to pursue more aggressive testing for the virus out of fear that more positive cases would hurt his re-election effort. The administration finally ramped up its efforts in March, but Trump has repeatedly told governors to get their own medical supplies.
That’s exactly what states like Maryland have done, but in many cases, the federal government has outbid them for those supplies or seized them altogether. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, ordered three million masks from overseas to provide to first responders and healthcare workers, only to have them confiscated by the federal government at the Port of New York.
Hogan cited the Massachusetts incident as a key factor in his own efforts to protect his shipment of tests.
“It was like Fort Knox to us, because it’s going to save the lives of thousands of our citizens. There had been reports of—for example in Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker told a story of his planeload that came in with masks was basically confiscated by the federal government,” Hogan said. “We wanted to make sure that that plane took off from Korea safely, landed here in America safely, and that we guarded that cargo from whoever might interfere with us getting that to our folks who needed it.”
Hogan is not alone in taking such measures to avoid federal interference. The Chicago Sun-Times reported in April that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker arranged secret chartered flights of supplies to avoid a seizure by the Trump administration.
“The supply chain has been likened to the Wild West, and once you have purchased supplies, ensuring they get to the state is another Herculean feat,” Pritkzer’s spokesperson told the Sun-Times. “These flights are carrying millions of masks and gloves our workers need. They’re scheduled to land in Illinois in the coming weeks and the state is working to ensure these much-needed supplies are protected and ready for distribution around the state.”
A similar scenario is now playing out in Maryland, as Hogan uses law enforcement to guard against federal intervention and ensure his state gets the tests they need.
“The national guard and the state police are both guarding these tests in an undisclosed location,” Hogan said.