In case you missed it, a report from The Washington Post details how Governor Larry Hogan is “taking the lead” to fight the spread of coronavirus and to help coordinate the national response. According to the report, “Hogan’s announcements have telegraphed control,” being first or among the first governors in America to take “aggressive” steps like declaring a state of emergency and closing schools, bars, and restaurants.
Just today, Governor Hogan announced a series of new actions to keep Marylanders safe, including ordering all state malls and entertainment venues closed, restricting access to the BWI Marshall Airport terminal to only ticketed passengers and airport employees, prohibiting gatherings with more than ten people, and activating phase one of Maryland’s hospital surge plan to make 900 beds available immediately.
As Chair of the National Governors Association, Hogan also presented to the President, the Vice President, and congressional leaders the nation’s governors top five priority requests for the federal government to address during this crisis.
“The top political leaders in the greater Washington area have tackled the novel coronavirus crisis with markedly different styles. Although it’s too soon to judge what approach is best, the outbreak is a real-time gauge of how personality can dictate policy at a time when the federal government has left crucial aspects of emergency response up to states and localities.
No one has seized the moment more aggressively than Hogan — a Republican running a blue state, chairman of the National Governors Association and past presidential aspirant.
He was among the first to close schools and shutter restaurants. Bowser soon followed his lead.
Taking The Lead
Hogan’s announcements have telegraphed control, including a news conference inside an emergency operations center, flanked by National Guard members in fatigues. Behind him was a map of the world showing live updates of the global spread of what the World Health Organization had hours earlier labeled a pandemic.
‘This is escalating quickly,’ he warned, adding that people older than 60 should stay at home indefinitely. The state had just 13 cases at that point, and widespread social distancing was not underway. But Hogan said major disruptions were on the horizon.
The next day, he shut down schools statewide for two weeks, minutes after Ohio became the first in the country to do so. Hogan put Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford ® in charge of state government so he could focus on the virus response. He was incensed by Facebook photos showing people openly flouting his advice.
‘All weekend, there’s pictures of thousands of people partying in bars that are going to, you know, infect their parents and grandparents,’ he said in an interview in Annapolis. ‘So, you know, then we have to take further action… . I don’t have time to debate anything or ask permission.’
Hogan, 63, is widely popular, especially since his high-profile battle with cancer during his first term, in 2015. He was courted by the Never Trump wing of the Republican Party last year as a potential primary challenger to the president, and observers say his leadership during this crisis could fuel a future run for higher office.
In the past three weeks, Hogan has leaned into his role as chairman of the National Governors Association, visiting the White House Situation Room twice and tweeting photos of himself seated beside Vice President Pence each time. He casts himself as a leader getting it right, and acts as a spokesman for governors struggling to secure resources. On Wednesday alone, he had six live television interviews.
Although he says criticizing the widely panned federal response is unhelpful, Hogan is quick to complain that the U.S. government is behind on testing capability and may never catch up. He said governors on the front lines must act first.
‘We’re going to push forward without waiting,’ he said. ‘We’re going to say, ‘We’re moving forward. Please come help us.’
Hogan, who was a suburban real estate developer before becoming governor in 2014, drew national attention for his handling of riots in Baltimore after just a year in office. He called in the National Guard before city leaders asked for that help, then spent the rest of the week urging residents to keep the peace.
‘Frankly, I thought that was a big challenge,’ he said this week. ‘That was like a Caribbean vacation compared to this. That was like nothing.’
He said it was a National Governors Association briefing from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in mid-February that first crystallized for him the epidemic was a grave concern. He then created a panel of epidemiologists and other advisers, who convinced him that drastic action was the only useful option. The approach dovetailed with his instinct.
Hogan, who routinely calls for national unity, said his ‘phone’s ringing off the hook’ with governors sharing tips and looking for solutions.”