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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday that thousands of COVID-19 tests his state obtained from the South Korean government are currently under guard at an “undisclosed location” over fears the federal government would confiscate them.
In an interview with the Washington Post Live, Hogan was asked if he was concerned a federal agency would attempt to seize the tests, noting that “it was a little bit of a concern,” The Hill reported.
Maryland @GovLarryHogan on whether he was concerned that the federal government would seize the tests the state procured from South Korea. He says the tests are being guarded by the National Guard at an undisclosed location. https://t.co/uGcUi6U5rL pic.twitter.com/15BhHmLzql
— Washington Post Live (@postlive) April 30, 2020
“We spent about 22 days and nights dealing with this whole transaction with Korea. We dealt with the Korean Embassy, folks at the State Department … and our scientists on both sides trying to, you know, figure out these tests,” said Hogan, adding that his state coordinated with the Food and Drug Administration on the purchase.
“And then at the last moment, I think 24 hours before, we got the sign-off from the FDA and Border and Customs, to try to make sure that we landed this plane safely,” Hogan — whose wife is South Korean and helped arrange the purchase — noted further.
The Republican governor also told the Post’s podcast that the plane was redirected to land at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport rather than Dulles International Airport in Virginia, one of three in the Washington, D.C., area (the third being Reagan National Airport).
“We landed it there with a large contingent of Maryland National Guard and Maryland State Police because this was an enormously valuable payload. It was like Fort Knox to us, because it’s going to save the lives of thousands of our citizens,” he said.
Asked if troops and police were still guarding the supplies, Hogan replied, “They are.”
“The National Guard and the State Police are both guarding these tests at an undisclosed location. These things are being distributed; they’re helping us distribute the tests,” he said.
Hogan noted that the reason for the heightened security was due to the fact that undisclosed federal agencies had confiscated shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) before.
The Hill noted that Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) had 3 million N95 masks confiscated at the Port of New York in March, just as his state was in the process of obtaining another 1.2 million masks from China.
Baker relied on a private jet belonging to Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, to bring the shipment in from China.
Two weeks later, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) made arrangements for a pair of cargo flights from China to bring in masks and gloves to his state. He also kept the arrangements secret from the Trump administration to avoid having it confiscated.
“It is true that the federal government seems to be interrupting supplies that are being sent elsewhere in the nation, and so I wanted to make sure that we received what we ordered,” he told reporters April 15.
The states were making secret arrangements to obtain their own PPE even as national shortages existed in critical parts of the country, which is what likely led to fear over federal government confiscations.
The Justice Department and the FBI, along with the Department of Homeland Security, have been working to ensure that no one hoards short-supply PPE during the pandemic. In an April 2 statement, DoJ noted it was distributing “hoarded personal protective equipment (PPE), including approximately 192,000 N95 respirator masks, to those on the frontline of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response in New York and New Jersey.”
The department added:
The FBI discovered the supplies during an enforcement operation by the Department of Justice’s COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force on March 30 and alerted HHS which used its authority under Defense Production Act (DPA) to order that the supplies be immediately furnished to the United States.
“Cracking down on the hoarding of vital supplies allows us to distribute this material to the heroic healthcare workers on the frontlines who are most in need,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “Thanks to the quick work of the White House, the Department of Justice, and HHS, the seized resources were distributed in days to the doctors, nurses and first responders who need them.”
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