Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday afternoon that the state has acquired 500,000 COVID-19 from South Korea.
Hogan said during a press conference in Annapolis that the test kits are from LabGenomics, and came following a nearly a month of diplomacy talks with South Korea.
The testing equipment arrived in a plane on Saturday at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. It was the first time a Korean Air flight had landed at BWI, he said.
Hogan and his wife Yumi, who is Korean American, started talking on March 28 with the South Korean ambassador to the United States, Lee Soo-Hyuk, asking, during a phone call, for help with the pandemic.
“We made a personal plea in Korean asking for their assistance,” he said.
“That call set in motion 22 straight days of vetting, testing, negotiations and protocols between our scientists and doctors. Eight Maryland state government agencies, and our counterparts in Korea.”
Hogan said the cost of the test kits was $9 million.
The 500,000 test kits, Hogan said Monday, are more than the combined total of four U.S. states that have completed the most coronavirus testing.
To date, 71,000 COVID-19 tests have been completed in Maryland, Hogan said on Monday. The state received another 40,000 kits last week, he said.
Hogan said the expansion of the state’s testing capability is critical in moving Maryland’s recovery efforts forward. Those efforts include expanding contact tracing, increasing the supply of personal protective equipment and expanding surge capacity at hospitals.
“It sets us up to be able to spread these [tests] out across the state and work with different labs and utilize them in many different ways …. it will enable us to identify those who are sick and those who have the virus so it can help us isolate our contact tracing and keep people safe across the state and help us with our reopening,” he said.
Hogan told reporters that later this week he would discuss the possibility of reopening parts of the state.
“You could possibly do things in different things in different regions or different parts of the state, but what you don’t want to is to have one place open, everybody rushes over there and infects that county. So there’s a lot of thought that goes into that,” he said.
Comptroller Peter Franchot said in a statement that Hogan’s announcement “marks a major milestone” in combatting the pandemic.
“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.
Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for Montgomery County, wrote in an email that she wasn’t sure how many of the 500,000 tests would go to the county.
Dan Schere can be reached at email@example.com
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