A total of nine states on the U.S. East and West coasts said on Monday they had begun planning for the slow reopening of their economies and lifting of strict stay-at-home orders amid signs the worst had passed in the U.S. coronavirus pandemic.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo and several other governors of north-eastern states convened a conference call this afternoon, to discuss a regionally coordinated plan to reopen the economy.
Cuomo said the state governments’ decisions about how to reopen the economy would be “guided by experts, data and science” and would not be done “in a political way”.
The conference call comes as Trump has said he has the authority to reopen the economy on a federal level, a claim that has been contradicted by constitutional experts.
Cuomo said each state would name a public health official and an economic development official to serve on a working group alongside each governor’s chief of staff, and the group will design a reopening plan that considers both health and economic concerns.
“Let’s be smart, let’s be cooperative and let’s learn from each other,” Cuomo said.
Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo added: “The reality is, this virus doesn’t care about state borders, and our response shouldn’t either.”
The governors of California, Oregon and Washington said they also had reached an agreement on a shared approach to restarting businesses, although they gave no firm timeline and said they would be guided by the health of residents first.
U.S. President Donald Trump said earlier on Monday that any decision on restarting the economy was his to make.
Tensions between state governors and Trump have bubbled up since the outbreak worsened a month ago and emerged in the debate about when and how to restart economic activity.
Legal experts say a U.S. president has limited power under the U.S. Constitution to order citizens back to their places of employment, or cities to reopen government buildings, transportation, or local businesses to reopen.
“It is the decision of the president, and for many good reasons,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Monday. He went on to write that his administration was working closely with the governors.
“A decision by me, in conjunction with the governors and input from others, will be made shortly!” Trump’s tweet said.
Political leaders said a reopening of the economy may hinge on more widespread testing and cautioned that lifting of stay-at-home restrictions too early could reignite the outbreak. The Trump administration has signaled May 1 as a potential date for easing the restrictions.