Coronavirus and the States: Governors Coalesce to Reopen on Their Terms; Budgets Look Increasingly Bleak

By: - April 14, 2020 12:00 am

A man delivers groceries in New York City. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and six other governors formed a coalition to plan a joint reopening of their state economies once the coronavirus crisis eases. Mark Lennihan/The Associated Press

Read Stateline coverage of the latest state action on coronavirus.

Absent a coherent U.S. plan, governors in at least two regions of the country — the Northeast and the Pacific West — this week formed multistate consortiums to coordinate their economic reopening and continuing response to the coronavirus epidemic.

The governors of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — all Democrats except Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker — formed a working group to consider how and when to reopen the regional economy. Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who spearheaded the effort, said decisions will be based on both economic and health concerns.

“Let’s be smart, and let’s be cooperative,” Cuomo said.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, all Democrats, announced in a joint statement their agreement on how to reopen their economies and control COVID-19.

The governors, who have taken the lead on shutting down their states and securing medical supplies, refuted President Donald Trump’s assertion that it was his decision on when and how to reopen the country.

“Seeing how we had the responsibility for closing it down, I think we have the primary responsibility for opening it up,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, in a joint news conference with the other East Coast governors.

The Western governors came up with four principles to guide their efforts:

  • Protect vulnerable populations;
  • Ready facilities to care for those who get sick;
  • Lessen the indirect impacts of the virus on disadvantaged communities;
  • And create a system for testing, tracking and isolating those with the disease.

“COVID-19 doesn’t follow state or national boundaries,” the Western governors said in their statement. “It will take every level of government, working together, and a full picture of what’s happening on the ground.”

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in a conference call with reporters that none of the efforts would be swift or easy, because the states are still fighting the virus even as they plan for the future.

“The house is still on fire,” said Murphy, a Democrat. “We still have to put the fire out, but we do have to begin putting in the pieces of the puzzle that we know we’re going to need … to make sure this doesn’t reignite.”

Several governors on the East Coast noted that they share major roadways such as Interstate 95, as well as workforces, with residents of one state commonly commuting into another for jobs.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, another Democrat, said in announcing the agreement that she doesn’t want to “keep people out of work one day longer than necessary. However, we need to do this safely.”

“Governors are the ones who have been showing great leadership to keep our citizens safe,” Raimondo said. “This virus doesn’t care about state borders, and the response shouldn’t either.”

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Elaine S. Povich
Elaine S. Povich

Elaine S. Povich covers consumer affairs for Stateline. Povich has reported for Newsday, the Chicago Tribune and United Press International.