Maryland, Virginia Governors Say They're Fighting for Testing as Protestors Push to Reopen

While protesters and President Trump agitate for the economy to reopen, the governors of Maryland and Virginia spent the weekend saying the states have not yet contained the coronavirus health crisis

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Maryland and Virginia residents frustrated over the economic fallout of stay-at-home orders and nonessential business closures plan more protests this week to call for governors to reopen the economy, even as leaders say the coronavirus health crisis is not contained.

The leaders of Maryland and Virginia have each said while progress has been made, the greater capital region isn't ready.

President Donald Trump has encouraged protesters pushing governors across the country to begin reopening the economy, previously saying he would like to see the country opening back up by May 1.

But the Republican governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, and the Democratic governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, say their states are still working to achieve the benchmarks set by the federal government for relaxing stay-at-home orders.

President Donald Trump said that he will use the Defense Production Act to increase the production of medical swabs needed for coronavirus testing.

On Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence said on "Meet the Press" that some states had enough testing capacity to begin reopening parts of the economy.

"That's just delusional," Northam said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" with Jake Tapper. He said the state doesn't even have enough swaps for sufficient testing.

Northam said the state has been fighting for tests, but says it is "irresponsible" to say states have what they need to roll back stay-at-home orders and closures of nonessential businesses put into place last month.

Protestors gathered in Richmond on Thursday to push for the economy to reopen, the day before President Trump tweeted a call to "LIBERATE VIRGINIA" and two other Democrat-governed states, going against guidelines issued by his own administration.

A Facebook group called Reopen Virginia has over 20,000 members and some plan to participate in another gridlock rally on Wednesday. Many say the business closures are too strict and too damaging to the economy. Despite the government's warnings, members say they want to get back to work.

"If Virginians don't unit to reopen our economy, now, we might not have an economy to reopen later," organizer David Britt said in a press release.

"We're not there yet," Northam told CNN. He said the health crisis must be addressed, then work can begin on recovering from the economic fallout.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says that the lack of testing "is probably the number one problem in America" and has been since the coronavirus crisis began.

"To try to push this off to say that the governors have plenty of testing and they should just get to work on testing — somehow we aren't doing our job — is just absolutely false. Every governor in America has been pushing and fighting and clawing to get more tests," Hogan told CNN.

Annapolis was also the target of weekend protests. Many of the demonstrators stayed in their cars, waving American flags and sporting signs with messages including "Freedom over fear" and "open up our churches." Photographers still captured several people gathering outside their vehicles.

Photos: Maryland, Virginia Governors Say They’re Fighting for Testing as Protestors Push to Reopen

City leaders warned of another gridlock protest planned for Monday.

“We’re not at the point yet where we can” reopen, Hogan said. “But we have a very detailed reopening plan we have been working on for weeks. We’re anxious to get people back to work.”

Last week, the Trump administration released guidelines saying that states needed widespread testing and to see a two-week slow down in infections before reopening.

Diagnoses continue to climb in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., and surpassed 24,000 over the weekend. There are positive signs, however. Virginia was tracking fewer outbreaks last week. On Saturday, Maryland reported 522 new coronavirus cases, compared to more than 700 new cases reported each of the three previous says.

At least three residents of a nursing home in Charles County, Maryland, have died from COVID-19, their families tell News4.

"We're doing everything we possibly can to reopen in a safe manner," Hogan said. "But I don't think it's helpful to encourage demonstrations and encourage people to go against the president's own policy."

Hogan also pushed for lawmakers to come together on another coronavirus economic rescue bill for small businesses and hospitals. But he says the National Governors Association, which he chairs, is pushing for more funds to go to states.

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