Update: Cuomo Leads 7-State Effort to Coordinate Covid-19 Health, Economic Response

UPDATE Led by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the governors of seven states Monday announced a multi-state council to restore the economy while minimizing health risks.

Joining Cuomo’s press conference  by phone were New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, Delaware Gov. John Carney and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, all Democrats.

Shortly after the press conference, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, said, “The Baker-Polito Administration looks forward to participating in discussions with neighboring states and experts regarding the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Massachusetts also remains focused on efforts to expand testing, ensure hospital capacity and provide the necessary PPE to those on the front lines to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

Each emphasized the need for coordination amongst their states, sometimes  referring to the I-95 connection or borders. They also took turns emphasizing the need for the economic and health recovery efforts to run parallel, using a mix of metaphors about baseball and a house afire. 

The states will form a group consisting of  one health expert, one economic development expert and each governor’s chief of staff to 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. Cuomo said the group will convene as early as Tuesday with orders to find solutions ASAP but were smart and kept all needs in mind.

Introducing the press conference, Cuomo said, “New York has reached a plateau. It is not going down but it is not going up at the same rate. That’s relatively good news in a world of bad options. We look forward to reopening but with a plan and a smart plan. We’ve seen it backfire,” referring to countries that have seen a resurgence of infections after relaxing restrictions on their citizens.

Murphy of New Jersey said, “No one has given more thought or is more eager to restart our economy than I am, but if we don’t get the sequencing right, we put more lives at riskThe only path to a sustainable economic recovery is through a strong healthcare recovery. Then, and only then, do we position ourselves to fully ignite our economy and get the residents of our state back to work while minimizing the danger of this disease.”

The governors also spoke repeatedly of the need to rely not on emotion but on information,  data and science when making decisions about when to lift stay at home orders and other steps, which Cuomo acknowledged could be vary slightly from state to state or even regionally within a given state.

“We have been collaborating closely with our neighboring states to combat this pandemic through a uniform approach to social distancing and density reduction and it has been working well. Now it is time to start opening the valve slowly and carefully while watching the infection rate meter so we don’t trigger a second wave of new infections,” 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.”

Rhode Island’s Gina Raimondo said, “I don’t want to keep people out of work one day more than necessary. States are taking the lead as we fight to slow the spread of coronavirus and save lives. I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken, and I’m constantly thinking about what it will take to safely reopen our economy. But we know that this virus does not recognize borders, and it’s clear we need a strong, coordinated regional approach to avoid a second wave of this disease.” 

Connecticut’s Ned Lamont said, “One thing that’s undeniable is that this virus does not stop at the border of any county, state, or country, but the impact is the same when it comes to our respective economies and healthcare systems. Working as a regional coalition to make the right decisions will lead to the best public health results for all of our residents. We must solve these problems together.”

Without seeming to directly challenge President Trump, who recently has talked about “reopening” the economy and lifting stay-at-home orders, Cuomo and others took pains to point out that they had ordered businesses and schools to close, and therefore, expected that they would be the ones to reopen them.

Cuomo spoke at length about the need to have specific steps in mind and the need for a detailed management model that would address problems large and small. 

“It wasn’t the federal government’s responsibility to  close but it is to open the economy and what does ‘open’ mean?” He asked. ” All businesses? Isolation is over, come out of your homes, businesses are open?
“The governors need clarity.”

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