Northeastern Governors Form Regional Task Force to Reopen States Economies

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Six states in the Northeast are working together to form a regional coordinated plan that would allow businesses to reopen their economies once in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Calling the council the “Covid corridor,” the effort led by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo includes five other Democratic Governors Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Ned Lamont of Connecticut, Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, John Carney of Delaware and Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island. On the conference call Monday, the six governors said they will name a public health official and an economic official from each state to “form a working group that will start work immediately on designing a reopening plan,” while taking into consideration “the public health concerns and issues and the economic reactivation issues and concerns.” The chief of staff from each respective governor will also take part of the group.

“Each state is going to name a public health official for that state, an economic development official for that state,” Cuomo said leading the conference call Monday afternoon. “Those officials will then form a working group that will start work immediately on designing a reopening plan, taking into consideration the public health concerns and issues and the economic reactivation issues.”

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“We should look forward to reopening but reopening with a smart plan because it can backfire,” Cuomo added. “This has to be informed by data and experts you have to take one step forward and then you measure the next step.”

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Cuomo on Monday addressed the reopening of New York, but warned that such opening won’t be by the “flick of a switch.” He said there are specific objectives that should be met as part of a reopening plan that includes easing isolation, increasing New York’s economic activity, expanding the category of “essential” workers, and having greater testing as well as precautions so as to not increase the rate of infection.

The governors were all in agreement on the necessity of working together, particularly among the workforce in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

“State boundaries mean very little to this virus,” Cuomo said. “We need coordination with New Jersey and Connecticut first and foremost because that’s where our workforce comes from. That’s the primary place for coordination.”

Connecticut Gov. Lamont noted that many of Connecticut’s coronavirus cases are from “hundreds of thousands of people going back and forth between New York and Connecticut,” calling the spread “the commuter corridor for us and it’s also the COVID corridor.”

The Northeast has been the hardest hit by the outbreak, with New York being the epicenter. As of Monday, there are more than 558,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the nation with more than two thirds of those cases are concentrated between the six Northeastern states. New York is reported to have 190,288 positive coronavirus cases with more than 10,000 deaths; New Jersey reported more than 61,800 positive cases and more than 2,350 deaths; and Connecticut reported more than 12,000 positive cases with more than 550 deaths.

Cuomo stated that there are no timetable for the group to release its plan, but emphasized that there is no one plan, and each state as well as even parts of each state, may have to roll out a different plan.

“We didn’t start with a timetable. We said want it ASAP, but we want it smart. This is about being smart first, not political,” Cuomo said. “We should start looking forward to ‘reopening’, but reopening with a plan and a smart plan because if you do it wrong, it can backfire. I don’t believe we wind up with a fully common strategy. You have different states in different positions. We anticipate different facts, different circumstances with different states, different parts of states. But let’s be smart, and let’s be cooperative, and let’s learn from one another.”

Earlier on Monday, Gov. Murphy tweeted that at least some of the governors on the call spoke with White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and they discussed the need for rapid and broad testing throughout the U.S.

The Northeastern governors, led by Cuomo, announced the coronavirus group hours after President Trump tweeted earlier that only he has the sole power, not state leaders to reopen the country. 

“For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect. It is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons,” Trump tweeted. “With that being said, the Administration and I are working closely with the Governors, and this will continue. A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly! 

The governors on the call addressed the president’s position, with Cuomo conceded that Trump had the authority to reopen states, because of the declaration of federal emergencies. However, he added on that there needs to be more “clarity” from the federal government, such as setting a federal guidelines program for states can use to follow.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who also is the chairman of the National Governors Association, said that governors will consult with the White House Coronavirus Task Force officials about reopening. However, Hogan added that it will ultimately be up to individual governors, and not President Trump, to decide ultimate “decision about what to do with their states.”

“We’d love to have the president’s cooperation, but governors made decisions to take various actions in their states based on what they thought was right for their state, based on the facts on the ground, talking with doctors and scientists,” Hogan said. “I think individual governors who made those decisions will have the ultimate decision about what to do with their states.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee later announced a similar regional partnership on the West Coast. The governors of the three states will collaborate on a “shared approach for reopening our economies – one that identifies clear indicators for communities to restart public life and business.”