Gov. Larry Hogan has ordered Maryland’s April 28 primary election to be postponed until June 2 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, he announced Tuesday.
Hogan said the special election to fill former Rep. Elijah Cummings’ 7th Congressional District seat will go forward on April 28 with a mail-in ballot.
On Monday, Hogan prohibited any gatherings of more than 50 people.
Based on that, he said Tuesday that holding a primary election in the midst of the current state of emergency “would endanger public health” for thousands of Marylanders, especially poll workers and election judges, most of whom are retirees and among populations of people who are most vulnerable to the virus.
Hogan said he consulted with Maryland Board of Elections officials, who told him that they were “incapable” of preparing to conduct a mail-in election for the whole state in time for the original primary date on April 28.
Instead, Hogan said he has asked them to conduct a mail-in only election for the special election to fill the 7th Congressional District seat previously held by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings.
“[I]t is imperative that the people of the 7th Congressional District have a voice in the House of Representatives, and that Maryland has a full delegation representing our state in Congress,” he said.
Maryland joins three other states that have postponed their primaries so far: Louisiana, Georgia and Kentucky. In a last-minute decision Monday night, Ohio called off its primary that had been scheduled for Tuesday due to concerns over the coronavirus, however officials in that state have not yet announced whether that election will be postponed and to what date.
Meanwhile, Illinois, Arizona and Florida, whose primaries are scheduled today, will go forward with their elections as planned.
Hogan said most cases being confirmed in Maryland now are from community transmission, not from travel overseas as was the case earlier on in the outbreak.
As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, there is a total of at least 57 cases of the coronavirus confirmed in Maryland–although news media and community members have pointed out that additional cases in multiple counties were excluded from that count.
Included in the state’s Tuesday morning count are 24 cases in Montgomery County; 14 in Prince George’s County; six in Baltimore County; three each in Howard and Anne Arundel counties; two in Harford County; and one each in Baltimore City and Carroll, Charles, Frederick and Talbot counties, according to the Maryland Department of Health’s Maryland COVID-19 Case Map Dashboard.
Baltimore City confirmed its second case of the coronavirus Monday afternoon and Carroll County confirmed its second case Tuesday morning, neither of which was included in the state’s Tuesday morning count.
Howard County has confirmed a total of four coronavirus cases so far–one on Sunday and three on Monday–but the state’s Tuesday morning count only lists three cases in that county.
That means Maryland has a total of at least 60 confirmed coronavirus cases.
The increase between yesterday’s and today’s count represents the largest one-day jump of coronavirus cases that Maryland has seen since it confirmed its first three cases less than two weeks ago.
Fran Phillips, deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Health, said the state is developing plans to ensure that when testing becomes more widely available, it is available “for everyone who needs it.”
She said the Maryland Insurance Administration is reducing the out-of-pocket cost for people who have insurance, and “we absolutely are going to make sure that we take care of people without insurance, without that coverage.”
In addition to the primary election postponement, Hogan announced Tuesday a series of other actions his administration is taking to limit the spread of the coronavirus in Maryland.
All vehicle inspection sites will cease inspection operations, and Hogan has directed Maryland health and transportation departments to prepare to re-purpose those sites as potential drive-through coronavirus testing centers across the state.
Hogan went on to say that while create drive-through testing centers would be “relatively easy,” the state doesn’t want to create more tests than laboratories can handle.
“Everybody here would like to have a test but we don’t want to overload the system… We don’t want people lined up, jamming in places to get a test that they can’t get or that we can’t process,” he said.
Hogan is urging all Marylanders to avoid any unnecessary travel and is discouraging anyone from entering the terminal at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport unless they are a traveling passenger or reporting for work.
BWI is also eliminating check-in lines, changing hours of operation to allow for deeper cleaning of the terminal, and allowing only for carryout options at airport restaurants, Hogan said.
Hogan said the Maryland Transportation Authority will be closing all customer service centers and immediately switching to 100 percent cashless tolling across the state.
The MARC train will reduce service by 50 percent, and beginning tomorrow the state will reduce all local bus, light rail, metro and commuter bus services, Hogan said.
He added the state will continue to prioritize and provide medical trips for procedures such as for dialysis or chemotherapy, and transportation to hospitals and mental facilities.
The state is reducing hours at Motor Vehicle Administration locations and will be suspending all non-commercial driver’s license tests, Hogan said.
Hogan, who serves as the chairman of the National Governors Association, has sent a letter on behalf of the nation’s governors to President Donald Trump, requesting that he extend the deadline to obtain a federal real ID license.
Hogan discouraged people from “panic buying” and “hoarding” products, and encouraged people to share items with neighbors while stores are restocking their shelves.
“We’re all in this together and it will take every one of us working together to keep people healthy and to save lives,” he said.
Hogan said today’s actions, as well as previous actions such as closing Maryland public schools, were put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“It doesn’t stop the virus,” he said. “It’s not going to stop a lot of people from being infected… Unfortunately we’re going to lose some lives. But it will potentially stop hundreds of thousands of people from getting the disease and potentially save thousands of lives here in Maryland.”
He urged Marylanders to stay home, practice social distancing and contact a medical provider if they display symptoms of the coronavirus or their condition worsens.
Nationwide, there have been at least 4,661 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, including at least 85 deaths and 17 recoveries, as of 11 a.m. Tuesday, according to a real-time dashboard created by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended events with 50 or more people be postponed or canceled for the next eight weeks.
President Donald Trump said Monday that gatherings should be limited to 10 people or fewer.
He also said he thought postponing elections is “unnecessary” and “not a very good thing,” but that he would leave the decision up to state governments.
“It’s a big thing postponing an election,” he said. “I think, to me, that really goes to the heart of what we’re all about. I think postponing an election is a very tough thing.”
Hogan’s decision regarding Maryland’s primary election came after he announced on Monday other actions his administration was taking to limit the spread of COVID-19, such as ordering the closure of all Maryland bars, restaurants, movie theaters and gyms; prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people; deploying additional members of the National Guard; and directing health officials to assess whether closed hospital facilities could be opened to increase the state’s healthcare capacity.
On Thursday, Hogan announced his administration’s first round of major actions to curtail the coronavirus, including closing Maryland public schools, closing cruise ship access to the Port of Baltimore, restricting visitation at state prisons, advising stricter visitation policies at Maryland hospitals, and delegating day-to-day operations of all non-essential, non-crisis functions of state government to Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford.