Maryland called in National Guard troops to defend coronavirus tests from South Korea against seizure
Maryland has National Guard troops and state police guarding coronavirus tests at a secret location because of concerns that they might be seized, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told The Washington Post Thursday.
In response to testing shortages, Maryland recently purchased half a million tests from LabGenomics, a South Korean company, for $9 million.
The Washington Post previously reported that Hogan was worried the federal government might seize the shipment, but it was unclear at that time which steps were taken to protect the tests. On Thursday, he acknowledged there was some concern.
"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 figure out these tests," Hogan said. "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."
The Maryland governor said when the Korean Air jet carrying the 500,000 tests flew into Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, it was met by National Guard troops and state police.
Hogan said it landed 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."
Hogan, who is a Republican, said he had heard reports from other states of the federal government confiscating supplies. He specifically pointed to an incident in Massachusetts.
After 3 million masks purchased for the state were confiscated in New York, state leaders in Massachusetts turned to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft to help bring in coveted N95 masks from China on a private plane.
"There were a couple of other states that had similar stories," Hogan said.
He said the tests were "so important to us that we wanted to make sure that plane took off from Korea safely, landed here in America safely, and that we guarded that cargo from whoever might interfere with us getting that to our folks that needed it."
The governor added that the test protection was ongoing, saying that "the National Guard and state police are both guarding these tests at an undisclosed location."
Maryland's decision to purchase coronavirus tests from South Korea drew criticism from President Donald Trump, who said the governor could have made use of available labs to help boost testing capacity. "I don't think he needed to go to South Korea. I think he needed to get a little knowledge, would have been helpful," the president said at a recent briefing.
Hogan later responded on MSNBC, saying that if there had been "an easier way" to get the necessary tests, "we certainly would have taken it."
Maryland has more than 20,000 coronavirus cases, and the state has reported over 1,000 related deaths.
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