This afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York hosted a public conference call with Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut, Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, Governor John Carney if Delaware, and Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island to announce a multi-state council that will “develop a fully integrated regional framework to gradually lift the states’ stay at home orders while minimizing the risk of increased spread of the virus.” The task force will include one health expert, one economic development expert, and the respective chiefs of staff from each state. The group will begin talking tomorrow. “We want a [timetable] ASAP, but we want it smart,” said Governor Cuomo, also stating that it will be done sooner than weeks. Update 4/14/20: Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker joined the group, becoming the first Republican governor to do so.
Governor Cuomo said, “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. 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.”
Earlier today, Trump tweeted, “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….”
But as Governor Cuomo said, “It wasn’t the federal responsibility to close the economy but it is the federal government’s responsibility to open the economy. If it’s your authority to open, why wasn’t it your authority to close? That’s an obvious question. And when you say ‘open,’ what does that mean? Does that mean you’re going to proclaim all business open? Isolation over. Come out of your homes. Businesses are open. What does it mean? Governors need clarity… you’re the President, there’s a constitution… so if it is a legal construct, you’re President of the United States, you want to put forth a disaster emergency plan as president? That’s your right.”
The governor also explained that this is a federal emergency declaration, which makes it more questionable why the closures were left to the individual states. “I don’t believe they could have a policy that says ‘everybody opens five days from now.’ How do you differentiate different parts of the country with different infection rates, different places on the curve–some are at the apex, some are at the plateau, some are on their way up the mountain–are you going to do a formula that says any place with an infection rate less than two percent can open?”
Teeing up the announcement during his press conference this morning, Governor Cuomo laid out the basic steps that must be taken to achieve a reopening strategy.
In terms of next steps, Governor Cuomo emphasized that politicians will not be the ones informing the plan, which was seemingly directed at NYC Mayor de Blasio’s announcement over the weekend that he was keeping public schools closed for the rest of the academic year, a statement that did have the governor’s backing. To that end, he also emphasized that businesses can’t begin to reopen before schools, which essentially function as daycare services for so many people.
Cuomo wrapped up his morning press conference by giving his personal opinion, which is that the battle is not truly won until there is an approved vaccine in 12-18 months. However, he was also optimistic about the fact that there will be points of resolution between now and then when we can all “take a deep breath,” such as knowing that we succeeded in flattening the curve, beginning to open businesses, and hopefully seeing the introduction of an anti-viral treatment for COVID-19.