Governors in the West and Northeast banded together on Monday to create regional planning systems for restarting economic activity while also assuring residents that the timeline for doing so will be determined by governors, not President Donald Trump.
The leaders of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode Island established a multi-state council of high-ranking officials that will coordinate the gradual reopening of businesses and public spaces and the lifting of stay-at-home orders. On the other side of the country, California Gov. Gavin Newsom teamed with the leaders of Oregon and Washington state on what was billed as a “Western States pact.”
The moves by the governors came on the same day that President Trump publicly mused once again about a possible timetable for getting Americans back to work. He sought to counter the message from the governors that lifting the mandate for social distancing measures was in his control. The White House on Monday also unveiled its Council to Re-Open America, whose members include White House advisors Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the President’s daughter and son-in-law; as well as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnunchin and chief economic advisor Larry Kudlow.
Meanwhile, the regional state pacts were light on details about a possible timetable, the most sought-after information by an anxious public. The six Northeastern states said the councils would include one public health expert, one economic development expert and the chief of staffs for each governor.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the formation of the council at his regular coronavirus briefing in Albany on Monday. Cuomo has gained national recognition and praise for his work to sound the alarm about the threat posed by the deadly COVID-19 contagion and its potential to overwhelm the state’s health care system.
After nearly a month of stay-at-home orders, Cuomo and other governors were still wary of making a guess on when schools and offices may start to reopen. They emphasized that returning to status quo too soon could lead to a big second wave of the virus that would require more draconian measures and cause still more economic devastation.
“This is not a light switch that we can just flick on and everything goes back to normal – we have to come up with a smart, consistent strategy to restart the systems we shut down and get people back to work, and to the extent possible we want to do that through a regional approach because we are a regional economy,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “New York is partnering with these five states to create a multi-state council that will come up with a framework based on science and data to gradually ease the stay at home restrictions and get our economy back up and running.”
The West Coast governors urged similar caution in a joint statement.
“COVID-19 doesn’t follow state or national boundaries. It will take every level of government, working together, and a full picture of what’s happening on the ground,” Newsom, Oregon’s Kate Brown and Washington’s Jay Inslee said.