What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

‘No question’ slow federal pandemic response cost lives, Gov. Hogan says

American governors are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 -- and the economic collapse it prompted. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, is chairman of the National Governors Association, and he has spoken out recently about failures in the federal pandemic response. Hogan joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the crisis, his forthcoming book, “Still Standing” and his political career.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we have seen, governors are on the front lines of combating the pandemic and its economic fallout.

    Republican Larry Hogan of Maryland is chairman of the National Governors Association. Recently, he has spoken out about failures on the federal level to respond.

    His book "Still Standing" is out next week. And he joins us now from Annapolis.

    Governor Hogan, thank you so much for joining us today.

    I do want to start with the pandemic. We have some new information about what's going on in Maryland. Your state, of course, has moved ahead with reopening much of your economy, but then, on Sunday, it was reported 900 new cases in a day, the previous week, over 500 new cases — 700 new cases in five of — days out of a week, this in spite of the reopening.

    Is it time to put that reopening on pause?

  • Gov. Larry Hogan, R-Md.:

    Well, Judy, we're looking at a whole lot of numbers, and you have to put it a little bit in perspective, because we did, over the past few days, two or three times more than normal testing, so we did almost 30,000 tests yesterday, as opposed to doing normally about 10,000 or 15,000.

    Our positivity rate is actually down, and we have been trending in the same direction. We hit our peak about 90 days ago, and we have been steadily going in a downward direction. We're one of nine states, I think, in the country that's going downward or staying plateaued or leveled.

    So, we are keeping a close eye on the — on those additional numbers of cases. But what's good is, we're seeing a pretty decent trend on our positivity rate, which yesterday was 3-point-something. And we're getting a handle on where those cases might be. We're doing a great job on contact tracing.

    But we're concerned about what's going on in other states, where we're actually seeing really big increases. But we're good on our hospitalizations, on our ICUs, and deaths, which are all trending in the right direction.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, 900 cases a day is a lot.

    And I want to quote from a Baltimore Sun editorial the other day. It criticized you for pushing back in June to reopen bars and restaurants, it said, despite the fact that keeping social distancing is difficult, if not impossible. It points out that the cases that are rising in Maryland, as in other states, are mainly among 20- and 30-year-olds.

    Is that something that you think could have been a mistake? Tony Fauci now says bars should be closed.

  • Gov. Larry Hogan:

    I think it was a mistake on the part of a lot of other states.

    We, on the other hand, did not open bars the way they did in the other states. We only have them open them for seated, distanced dining, and with very strict capacity restrictions and masks. So, many other states opened up bars with hundreds of people standing in line at bars. We never did that.

    I saw the editorial in "The Sun," but didn't agree with it.

    But I'm the one that raised the alarm on the concern here in our state. We are — while we're very far down on people over 35, we're seeing an increase in our — in our 20-something and 30-something-year-olds, and a lot of that has to do with parties and people going out, hanging out together, and congregating at some of these facilities.

    So we're keeping a close eye on it. And we have asked our local health department officials and — to step up the enforcement of some of these issues to make sure people are following the rules. And if we have to roll things back, then we definitely will — we will take those actions.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me ask you about the book.

    And, by the way, we were only given access to part of it, I gather you're going to release the rest of it in coming days.

    But in the book, you do write about your life, your many experiences. But you also have some pretty pointed criticism of President Trump's handling of this pandemic, especially in the early days.

    And you write about a period. And you call his — you refer to his publications criticisms of President Trump's handling of this pandemic, especially in the early days, and you write about a period. You call his — you refer to his public dismissals of the seriousness of this crisis.

    And you say he was commenting — quote — "like a man more concerned about boosting the stock market or his reelection plans."

    Was this inaction the cause of thousands of people losing their lives?

  • Gov. Larry Hogan:

    Well, I talk about — I have about — this book was coming out a little earlier, and I pushed the pause button, and I asked my publisher to put it off, and they asked me, because of the pandemic.

    They would only push it off until the end of April. And then they asked if I would add some of the more recent things. So, this goes back and talks about the early — I added five chapters to talk about the early response to the pandemic and what we were faced with as governors.

    It's not just really an attack on the president. But I do speak very frankly about what I saw as some of the mistakes early on, with the refusal to listen to the public health advice from really smart people in the administration that were sounding the alarms and were giving us good advice as governors.

    Many of us took it very seriously. And I think the early — the early messaging about there was nothing to be concerned about, when we all knew that there was, and I think not having some early actions on nationwide testing and things like that.

    So, it wasn't just meant to be critical of the president. I have always been up front and direct and tried to tell people exactly what's going on. I have praised them when they have done something right. But there were definitely mistakes made, particularly in the beginning of this crisis.

    The president could have listened to the advice of the smart people in his administration, the scientists and doctors, made some decisions quicker, and had a better response, and done a better job of letting the people in America know how serious it was early on.

    We wasted several months where we could have gotten a better handle on this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And does — did that lead to lives lost?

  • Gov. Larry Hogan:

    Well, there's no question about it.

    I mean, in some ways, we have saved some lives, because this thing has been tamped down. Originally, the estimates were up to two million lives lost.

    I know, in our state, some of the actions that we took — Johns Hopkins was predicting, by now, we would have lost 12,000-some lives, at least, at a minimum. And we have lost about 3,000 people, which is tragic. And so we can look at the lives that we have lost, and we can look at the lives that we have saved, either way.

    But, right now, I think everybody's trying to do everything they can to move forward to make sure that we aren't back in the same position now that we were back in the height of this crisis back in the early days of March and April.

    And that's the scary thing right now, that we're — it looks like it's coming back to those same kinds of levels.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You have said, Governor Hogan, that you didn't vote for President Trump in 2016. It sounds like you may not vote for him this year.

    Will you vote for Joe Biden?

  • Gov. Larry Hogan:

    Well, look, it's — I have until — like everybody else in America, I have until November to decide what to do.

    I'm chairing the National Governors Association. I'm, luckily, not able to get involved in politics right now on a partisan basis. But I — regardless of what happens in November, I think we're going to take a hard look at what the future of the Republican Party is going to look like and what the future of our country is going to look like over the next four years.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And what advice do you give to Republicans?

    Because it's clear that many of them are saying now they're not comfortable with President Trump being reelected? What do you — what advice do you have for them?

    I think the Republican Party's really got to take a look at how they're going to — Ronald Reagan always talked about a bigger tent. And he did a good job of reaching out and winning over independents and swing Democrats.

    And that's one thing I think the Republican Party's not doing now. Successful politics is about addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division. And if we're going to — if we're going to win as a party, we're going to have to appeal to more people, and not shrink the base.

    And that's what I have done here in Maryland in one of the blue states in the country. And we have won over suburban women and independent voters and Democrats and minority voters. And the Republican Party's doing a very poor job of reaching those folks and messaging to them these days.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Larry Hogan might be a candidate for president in 2024.

    Is that something you're looking at?

  • Gov. Larry Hogan:

    I think it's way too early to look at that. I have got a great job as the governor of Maryland until January of 2023.

    And we're in the middle of twin crises, with this virus and with the economic crisis. And I'm going to stay focused right here at home.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Larry Hogan, the governor of the state of Maryland, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

  • Gov. Larry Hogan:

    Thank you. Thank you, Judy.

Listen to this Segment