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Larry Hogan knocks Trump for leaving states to fend for themselves during coronavirus crisis

Washington — Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, lambasted President Trump for his handling of the coronavirus crisis in its earlier days amid efforts to secure test kits for his state, calling it "hopeless" to wait for the president to take the lead in responding to the pandemic that is now worsening across the nation once again.

In an op-ed published by the Washington Post on Thursday, Hogan questioned why Mr. Trump did not want to provide assistance to his state with ramping up coronavirus testing.

Hogan and his wife, Yumi, a Korean immigrant, instead worked with the South Korean government directly to secure 500,000 coronavirus test kits for Maryland, which were delivered to the state via a Korean Air flight in April. Not only did he procure the tests, he also had them driven by the Maryland National Guard with a state police escort to a secure warehouse because he feared the federal government might seize the tests.

"This should not have been necessary," Hogan wrote of his efforts to secure the testing kits from South Korea. "I'd watched as the president downplayed the outbreak's severity and as the White House failed to issue public warnings, draw up a 50-state strategy, or dispatch medical gear or lifesaving ventilators from the national stockpile to American hospitals. Eventually, it was clear that waiting around for the president to run the nation's response was hopeless; if we delayed any longer, we'd be condemning more of our citizens to suffering and death."

He reflected on Mr. Trump's earliest comments about the coronavirus, in which he downplayed its severity, and juxtaposed them with his own efforts to prepare for when Maryland inevitably had its first positive case of the coronavirus.

"So many nationwide actions could have been taken in those early days but weren't," Hogan wrote. "While other countries were racing ahead with well-coordinated testing regimes, the Trump administration bungled the effort."

The Maryland governor recalled hearing dire warnings about the possible devastation from the pandemic from the nation's top public health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at the winter meeting of the National Governors Association in February.

"It was jarring, the huge contrast between the experts' warnings and the president's public dismissals," he wrote. "Weren't these the people the White House was consulting about the virus?"

Hogan said the nation's governors were warned by the public health officials of "an imminent national threat" and said they "took it seriously — at least most of us did."

He recalled in his op-ed meeting with Mr. Trump briefly before a dinner sponsored by the Republican Governors Association, which the president addressed. During his speech, Hogan said, Mr. Trump criticized South Korean President Moon Jae-in and said the South Koreans were "terrible people."

As the coronavirus continued its rapid spread across the United States, which now has nearly 3.5 million confirmed cases and more than 137,000 deaths, governors pleaded with the Trump administration to assist in ramping up testing and boost production of ventilators and personal protective equipment for frontline workers.

A national testing program, Hogan wrote in the Washington Post, "required Washington's help."

"We expected something more than constant heckling from the man who was supposed to be our leader," he said.

Instead, the White House put the onus for testing on governors and said states needed to undertake their own efforts to ramp up coronavirus testing.

"It was hopeless waiting around for him," Hogan said of Mr. Trump.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany rejected Hogan's description of the president's handling of the pandemic. "This is revisionist history by Governor Hogan," McEnany told reporters Thursday. She noted that Hogan had "thanked the president for the progress we've seen in federal and state coordination," and the day before he accepted the shipment of South Korean tests, he had "praised the president of the United States for delivering on testing."

Hogan, the chairman of the National Governors Association, has been open about his criticism of the president's handling of the pandemic and was one of the few high-profile Republicans not to support Mr. Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. The opinion piece is adopted from his upcoming book, "Still Standing: Surviving Cancer, Riots, a Global Pandemic, and the Toxic Politics That Divide America" and comes amid speculation that he is considering a 2024 presidential run. He weighed a 2020 primary challenge against Mr. Trump when anti-Trump Republicans prevailed on him to run.

While Hogan has been lauded for his handling of the coronavirus crisis in Maryland, Mr. Trump has come under criticism for dismissing warnings of its severity and failing to ensure the country was prepared to respond to the rise in infections and hospitalizations.

The president has pushed states to reopen shuttered businesses and lift restrictions on residents designed to slow the virus' spread, in hopes of reviving a sputtering economy ahead of the November election. But most states are reporting an uptick in new infections, prompting some governors to halt their phased reopenings.

With the start of the next academic year just weeks away, Mr. Trump is now pressuring schools to open for in-person learning and has threatened to withhold federal funds from those that do not, though he lacks the authority to cut money already appropriated by Congress.

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