Larry Hogan called his wife Yumi a "champion" of the negotiations with South Korea to bring the tests into his state

By Ashley Boucher
April 21, 2020 09:56 PM
Larry Hogan and wife Yumi Hogan
From left: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Maryland First Lady Yumi Hogan in April 2019

Maryland received 500,000 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) test kits from South Korea this weekend in large part thanks to Gov. Larry Hogan’s wife, Yumi Hogan.

During a press conference on Monday, Hogan told reporters that Yumi, who was born in South Korea, was instrumental in the negotiations that led to the arrival of the test kits on Saturday.

“From the beginning of this coronavirus pandemic, one of the biggest problems in America has been the lack of availability of testing,” Hogan said during the press conference. “It remains the most serious obstacle to safely reopening our states.”

The politician noted that adequate testing is one of the “four critical building blocks” for the state’s “roadmap to recovery,” and called the acquisition of the new tests from South Korea “an exponential, game-changing step forward on our large-scale testing initiative.”

“We’ve been quietly working for a number of weeks on a confidential project called Operation Enduring Friendship,” he said, explaining that he and Yumi welcomed the arrival of a Boeing 777 on Saturday that was carrying coronavirus test kits from South Korean company LabGenomics, giving Maryland “the capability of performing a half a million coronavirus tests.”

Yumi and Larry Hogan
Larry and Yumi Hogan at Monday’s press conference
| Credit: Facebook

The tests cost about $9 million, he said later in the press conference.

“The 500,000 test capacity which we have just acquired is equal to the total amount of testing which has been completed by four of the top five states in America combined,” he said.

Hogan explained that he and Yumi, who is an accomplished artist, began work on the operation on March 28, when they spoke on the phone with South Korea’s Ambassador to the U.S., Lee Soo Hyuk.

“We made a personal plea in Korean asking for assistance,” he said. “That call set in motion 22 straight days of vetting, testing, negotiations and protocols between our scientists and doctors, eight Maryland state agencies and our counterparts in South Korea.”

“We convened countless calls nearly every night. Sometimes, it seemed like all night, working through language barriers and a 13-hour time difference,” he said. “I want to sincerely thank our Korean partners for assisting us in our fight against this common, hidden enemy. Each part of this international collaboration was unprecedented.”

“Most importantly, I want to thank Maryland’s First Lady, my wife, Yumi. She truly is a champion of this Operation Enduring [Friendship],” he said. “You may know her as the first Asian First Lady of Maryland, but she’s also the very first Korean American First Lady of any state of the United States. And it’s why we have and are so proud to have, such a special bond with South Korea.”

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Last week, Donald Trump reportedly told governors on a phone call, “you are going to call your own shots” when it comes to the reopening of states amid the ongoing pandemic.

Hogan said on Monday that those were words he took to heart.

“Here in Maryland, we’ve been doing everything in our power to acquire more tests from the federal government,” he said. “Unfortunately, we have also had to compete with every state in America in our attempts to procure tests from every domestic producer in the U.S. and from sources around the globe.”

Hogan later added: “The administration made it clear over and over again they want the states to take the lead, and we have to go out and do it ourselves, and so that’s exactly what we did.”

During Trump’s own press briefing on Monday, he called Hogan out for obtaining masks from outside of the U.S., saying that a list of producers in each state had been provided to every governor.

“Some of the governors, like as an example, the governor from Maryland didn’t really understand the list [of test producers in the U.S.,” Trump said. “He didn’t understand too much about what was going on, so now I think he’ll be able to do that. It’s pretty simple.”

Yumi and Larry Hogan
Yumi and Larry Hogan
| Credit: Twitter

Hogan had referenced that list during his Monday press conference, telling a reporter, “they gave us a list of all the labs that our in our state and in each of the states.”

“We already knew where the labs were,” he said, adding that “most” of the labs on the list were federal labs.

Hogan responded to Trump’s comment on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Tuesday.

“If there was an easier way, we certainly would have taken it,” he said. “Every governor in America has been fighting to get tests since the beginning of this crisis, and it’s probably been the No. 1 problem in America throughout this entire crisis. The president said the governors are on their own and they should focus on getting their own tests, and that’s exactly what we did.”

Hogan said that Trump’s “message changed yesterday,” adding, “I’m not sure why.”

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