Northeast States Form Council to Study Re-opening of Economy
John Jordan | April 2020
ALBANY—In nearly a month of difficult economic news and tragic fatality numbers due to the Novel Coronavirus pandemic, a glimmer of hope has emerged that the state is beginning to consider how and when non-essential businesses could reopen in New York State.
On Monday April 13, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a regional initiative with six other Northeast states to begin to study how and in what fashion they could re-start their respective economies in a collaborative fashion. Non-essential businesses in New York State have been shuttered since Gov. Cuomo put the state “on pause” on March 22.
Gov. Cuomo reported that the state has likely reached or is approaching the worst of the COVID-19 epidemic thanks to the stay-at-home measures that were put in place to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
“I believe the worst is over if we continue to be smart,” the governor told reporters. “And I believe we can now start on the path to normalcy, and we can have a plan where you start to see some businesses reopening, understanding the delicate balance.”
Also, on April 13, although President Donald Trump said that he has the power to order states to have businesses open their doors from state-ordered shutdowns, three governors of Western states announced they would also work cooperatively to study how and when they would restart their economies. President Trump shortly thereafter walked back his assertions regarding federal powers over states.
The Northeast COVID-19 initiative was announced at a press conference in Albany on Monday led by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Other participants included New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Delaware Gov. John Carney, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo. Shortly after the teleconference, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker reported Massachusetts would join the now seven-state coalition as well.
The governors stressed that the council, which will be comprised of one health expert, one economic development expert and the respective Chief of Staff from each state, will work together 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.
The council will create the framework using every tool available to accomplish the goal of easing social isolation without triggering renewed spread. Those tools will include testing, contact tracing, treatment and social distancing and will rely on the best available scientific, statistical, social and economic information to manage and evaluate those tools, state officials said.
All stressed that while they want to restart their economies sooner rather than later, health care considerations would drive how and when their economies would re-emerge from shutdown. While there was no set timeline on when the council would issue its recommendations, Gov. Cuomo said he would like to see a report from the council as soon as possible.
Gov. 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.”
The governor added that the council will start discussions on Tuesday and will develop a framework based on science and data to gradually ease the stay at home restrictions and get our economy back up and running.”
Gov. Cuomo acknowledged President Trump’s contention that the federal government has the authority to re-open, but said that he wished the President would clarify what his plan is and it could then be determined whether that plan was Constitutional.
New Jersey Gov. Murphy said, “The 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.”
He added, “A coordinated, regional approach, informed by a multi-state council of experts, will help us avoid a major setback with potentially disastrous consequences.”
A number of the Northeast governors questioned the President’s claim, since it was the respective states that ordered the shutdown of non-essential businesses.
Also, on Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced an agreement on a shared vision for reopening their economies and controlling COVID-19 into the future.
California, Oregon and Washington have agreed to work together on what they termed will be a shared approach for reopening their economies—one that identifies clear indicators for communities to restart public life and business.
Among the principles that each state has agreed on, include that “health outcomes and science—not politics” will guide their decisions to re-start their economies.