In times of extreme crises, we turn to our leaders for information, guidance and calm. Luckily, during this continuing COVID-19 pandemic, Maryland has been led by Gov. Larry Hogan.
Hogan’s swift, decisive actions, his clear and honest communication, his reliance on his scientific and health advisers and his calm demeanor have inspired our faith in his decisions.
His leadership also stands in stark contrast to the muddled, contradictory and often unhelpful response to the pandemic by President Donald Trump.
The president made one smart move at the very beginning of the crisis, on Jan. 31, stopping most travel from China, where the virus first arose. That gave the United States time to prepare for the onslaught.
But the administration then wasted more than a month of precious time, piling one bad decision on top of another.
Weeks were lost while the administration tried to develop a test for the virus, rather than use one from the World Health Organization. Each week, the public was promised tests would be available the following week, but it never happened.
Nothing was done to speed up production and distribution of medical supplies or to find more hospital beds that will be needed soon to take care of those afflicted.
And all the while, Trump and his friends in conservative media dismissed the danger of the coronavirus, offered false assurances that the virus would have minor effect on the United States and attacked the credibility of those who said otherwise.
Remember the early comment by the president that we had only 15 cases and those would soon be cleared up? That the news of the coming pandemic was a hoax perpetrated by Democrats and the news media? That, as late as last week, he said: “it will all go away” and then said on Sunday, “just relax”?
Hogan, meanwhile, recognized early on that the virus represented a unique and daunting challenge. Within days of the first cases being found in Maryland, he declared a state of emergency on March 5 and began aggressively moving to try to limit the spread.
He closed schools and limited visits to nursing homes and hospitals. He closed the Port of Baltimore to all cruise ships. On March 12, he announced “extreme” measures, including prohibiting public gatherings of more than 250 people.
“We cannot stop the spread of this virus without each and every one of you doing your part,” Hogan told Marylanders. “But also, I want all of you to know we’ll get through this together and our state has already faced and overcome daunting challenges before, and we will do so again.”
The governor added: “For Marylanders, the actions that I have announced here today will be disruptive to your everyday lives. And they may sound extreme. And they may sound frightening, but they could be the difference in saving lives and helping keep people safe.”
The words were prophetic, but much more disruption was coming. On Sunday, he ordered all casinos, racetracks and betting parlors closed. The next day, he closed all bars, restaurants, gyms and movie theaters. And on Tuesday, he postponed the state’s presidential primary election.
We are living in a world we could scarcely have imagined even two weeks ago.
Throughout this avalanche of horrifying information and terrifying developments, Hogan has been at his best, calm and collected, as stable as a favorite uncle.
Finally, on Monday, President Trump at last began giving the proper weight to the news he had to deliver, recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic would likely continue into summer, that thousands of lives are threatened and that our economy might plunge into recession.
More than 45 days have gone by since the president announced the China travel ban, and during that time Americans have had to depend on governors and local officials to show leadership, to give vital information about the disease and to make the difficult decisions to try to contain its spread.
Thankfully, Maryland has had Larry Hogan.