Less than two months ago, as COVID-19 began its spread throughout our State, I received a horrifying, almost unthinkable warning from some of our nation’s top public health experts. Without immediate and drastic action, the pandemic could kill more than 12,000 Marylanders and overwhelm our State’s health care resources.
As a lifelong small businessman who ran for governor because I was concerned about Marylanders losing jobs, I’m the last guy who would ever want to close businesses. And as a limited government Republican, I’m the last guy who wants the government telling people what to do.
But our founding fathers formed a government dedicated to protecting “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Life comes first. As governor, that is always my first and most important responsibility.
So I acted.
Today, because of these early and aggressive actions, as well as the incredible selflessness, courage, and grit of Marylanders, our State appears to be avoiding the terrible death tolls we’ve witnessed in places like Italy and New York. Maryland’s all-hands-on deck approach is working to blunt the worst potential infection rates, save thousands of lives, and prevent the overwhelming of our health care system resources.
Even as we see this success, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to inflict an unthinkable toll on our State just like the rest of America. We’ve lost hundreds of Marylanders to this disease and hundreds of thousands more are out of work.
That’s why Maryland’s safe and responsible recovery is my top and most urgent priority. Since the first days of this crisis, I’ve been consulting with top public health experts and a diverse group of business leaders, organized labor leaders and economists to develop a plan to gradually reopen Maryland’s economy.
We’ve also been working around the clock and taking unprecedented actions to meet the four key building blocks necessary for Maryland’s reopening and recovery: expanding personal protective equipment for frontline personnel, growing hospital surge capacity, creating adequate testing capacity, and implementing a robust contact tracing program.
As the world saw last week as we flew in 500,000 tests from South Korea, Maryland will never hesitate to do whatever is necessary to secure the resources we need for a safe and responsible recovery.
Our “Maryland Strong: A Roadmap to Recovery” plan details targeted and evidence-based guideposts for Maryland’s recovery and outlines the “new normal” necessary for a safe, gradual, and effective reopening. Current restrictions will be lifted incrementally based upon risk to the community. We will delegate decision-making to local health officials as much as possible. But we will also continue to provide a coordinated state response that recognizes hot spots in one area can quickly spread to other parts of the state.
Our plan is based on the understanding that economic recovery and protecting public health are the same goal — not opposing ones. If we don’t get this right, it will not only cost lives, but also destroy the economic recovery before it even gets off the ground.
It also provides transparency on the vast group of health, business, and local government leaders who will be advising and guiding the critical decisions of Maryland’s recovery phase, including a Maryland Strong Recovery task force, 13 industry recovery task forces, and a strategic partnership with Maryland’s county officials.
We are by no means out of the woods yet. Our cases are still rising. And President Donald Trump’s guidelines warn it’s too soon to begin lifting current safety measures.
But, make no mistake, Maryland is on the road to recovery. Although It remains a long and difficult road, we are making progress every single day. We will get there. We will get there together, and we will get there stronger than ever before.