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'It should not have been this difficult' | Maryland buys 500K coronavirus tests from South Korea

Maryland's first lady Yumi Hogan, a Korean immigrant, helped broker deal between state and South Korea.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Governor Larry Hogan negotiated with suppliers in South Korea to obtain a half-million coronavirus tests after President Donald Trump last week put the burden on states and their governors to independently obtain more medical supplies during the coronavirus pandemic instead of relying on federal help.

Hogan made the official announcement during a news conference Monday afternoon.

"The No. 1 problem facing us is lack of testing," Hogan told The New York Times. "Luckily, we had a very strong relationship with Korea. But it should not have been this difficult."

According to The New York Times, in recent days Hogan's wife, Yumi Hogan, a Korean immigrant who speaks fluent Korean, had been on the phone in the middle of the night helping to secure the final deal with two labs in South Korea to sell COVID-19 tests to Maryland.

The New York Times on Saturday reported that the first Korean Air flight to touch down at Baltimore-Washington International Airport had arrived carrying over 500,000 tests, for which the Food and Drug Administration, along with other agencies gave the seal of approval as the plane landed.

"I was frosted because my team was saying that the FDA approval was going to hold it up," Hogan said in an interview with The New York Times. "I didn’t care and was going to get the tests anyway."

RELATED: Maryland coronavirus updates: Schools closed with distance learning until May 15, face masks mandatory as cases pass 12,000

The New York Times reports that on Saturday, Hogan, his wife, and a group of other state officials greeted the flight to receive the kits.

Once the new kits have passed muster in local labs, they will be distributed to the testing centers the state has set up in sporting fields, repurposed vehicle emissions testing centers and other locations.

Back on April 15, Hogan announced that Maryland is now in a position to plan the gradual rollout of the state’s recovery phase amid "very real reasons for hope and optimism," laying out four building blocks for a recovery plan: 

  1. Expanding testing capacity
  2. Increasing hospital surge capacity
  3. Ramping up the supply of PPE
  4. Building a robust contact tracing operation

Hogan announced that Maryland has expanded testing capacity by more than 5,000% in the past month and the state is on track with an aggressive plan to more than triple the current capacity to perform up to 10,000 tests per day.

“There are some very real reasons for hope and optimism right now and there is clearly a light at the end of this tunnel, but exactly how and when we will get to that light is going to be up to each and every one of us," Hogan said. "Right now while our numbers are still climbing and we are still heading up that curve, not down, it is absolutely critical for Marylanders to stay home, to continue avoiding crowds and gatherings, and to aggressively practice social distancing."

RELATED: LIST: Where you can get tested for coronavirus in the DMV

Hogan said the Trump administration has recognized the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore corridor as an "emerging hot spot" for coronavirus cases. 

Hogan said he flagged Maryland to the White House and state's 12 hot spots which include: 

  • Baltimore City
  • Baltimore County
  • Carroll County
  • Prince George’s County
  • Montgomery County
  • Anne Arundel County
  • Howard County
  • Frederick County
  • Harford County
  • Queen Anne’s County
  • Calvert County
  • Charles County

You can see the total number of coronavirus cases Maryland is dealing with below 

The CDC has recommended several guidelines for the public during the pandemic. 

What precautions should you take?

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wear a mask if you have to make an essential trip outside
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are unavailable.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Reasons to leave your home under stay-at-home order:

  • Grocery store trips
  • Medical visits or trips to the pharmacy
  • Travel to your essential job
  • Exercise such as walks, hikes or bike rides

Commonly reported symptoms of COVID-19 infection include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pneumonia

If you are sick or suspect you are infected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking the followings steps:

  • Stay home except to get medical care
  • Avoid public areas, including work or school
  • Avoid public transportation
  • Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home
  • Contact your doctor via telemedicine for more guidance

Check the status of the virus in your state with your state health department's websites by tapping below:

RELATED: President Trump, Congress near deal on coronavirus aid package

RELATED: Positive coronavirus case doesn't allegedly stop discharge order at Maryland hospital

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