Maryland, Virginia and DC to Work Together on Plan for Lifting Restrictions

April 15, 2020by Luke Broadwater, The Baltimore Sun (TNS)
In this 2018 photo, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.

BALTIMORE — While Northeast states have announced a pact to figure out when and how to lift restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Maryland continues to coordinate its response to the pandemic with its southern neighbors in Washington, D.C., and Virginia.

The governors of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island said Monday they were forming a “regional advisory council” to guide the gradual reopening of those states’ economies — after the worst of the pandemic has passed.

“We cannot act on our own,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted. “We must be smart & tactical in how our region comes out of this, or else we’ll be right back to square one.”

The governors have all indicted they are not close to reopening their states’ economies, but the work group will advise them on what steps to take.

The governors of California, Oregon and Washington organized a similar pact, announced Monday, to evaluate how to reopen their economies. Washington state, in particular, was a hot spot for COVID-19 before it became widespread elsewhere in the U.S.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has not announced a similar pact involving Maryland or its neighbors, but his administration continues to work closely with the District of Columbia and Virginia.

“As chairman of the National Governors Association, Governor Hogan shares ideas with all of the governors, not just one particular region,” Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci said Tuesday in a statement. “He also talks regularly with the White House and administration officials.”

“Maryland’s situation is unique to Maryland, and the governor’s decisions will continue to be guided by the facts on the ground in our state.”

Hogan, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser talk every several days, and their top aides are in touch on a near-daily basis. The three announced stay-at-home orders on the same day last month.

The Northeast pact was announced Monday by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York as the number of new deaths and rate of hospitalizations fell in his state.

Hogan has repeatedly said he believes Maryland is several weeks behind New York in terms of when the worst of the health crisis will hit here. Maryland recorded its most lethal day Tuesday from the pandemic, reporting 40 new COVID-19 deaths.

Even so, members of the governor’s coronavirus task force have laid out what the state needs to see before serious talk of people going back to work and students returning to schools can begin.

Dr. Thomas Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University, has said the state first needs to reach a sustained period of time in which coronavirus infections decrease.

After that, Inglesby says, Maryland must have protective gear for all doctors and nurses, as well as enough hospital capacity, in case there is a second wave of the virus.

Thirdly, Maryland would need to have widespread testing capacity and enough trained personnel to do contact tracing of new cases.

Only then, should the state begin to consider loosening restrictions, he has advised.

Hogan recently invited former U.S. Food and Drug Administration head Scott Gottlieb to join his task force. Gottlieb, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, has also been consulting with the White House on how best to safely reopen the economy.

Gottlieb has advised that states should only begin reopening after they are able to “safely diagnose, treat, and isolate COVID-19 cases and their contacts.”

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©2020 The Baltimore Sun

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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