A group of six Northeast states---Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island---on April 20 jointly announced a council formed by representatives of each to come up with a plan to reopen their economies as the coronavirus crisis starts to ebb in the weeks to come.
The group became seven later in the day when it was announced that Massachusetts had joined the coalition.
The move by the states was seen in some corners as putting them in opposition to comments by President Donald Trump earlier in the day asserting that he alone has the power to decide when the economy is reopened.
The states’ announcement was led by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and the other five Democratic governors each called into a news conference held in Albany, NY, to announce the move to form the regional council.
Each state will contribute three representatives---the state’s top health official, the state’s top economic development official and the governor’s chief of staff---for a total of 18 members.
Cuomo said the council would begin its work April 21 and the timeframe for it to complete its work had not yet been decided.
“They’re going to start talking literally tomorrow and start to scope that out,” he said. “We didn’t start with a timetable. We said and will say to the group, we want it as soon as possible, but we want it smart.”
Earlier April 20, the president had issued a pair of tweets that insisted it was up to him and other federal officials to make decisions when to reopen economic activity shut down to combat the spread of coronavirus.
“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,” Trump said in the tweets. “Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect … It is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons.
“With that being said, the Administration and I are working closely with the Governors, and this will continue,” he continued. “A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly!”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf suggested since governors were the ones who made the individual decisions earlier in the crisis, the decision-making going forward should follow a similar course.
“Seeing how we had the responsibility for closing the state down, I think we probably have the primary responsibility for opening it up,” he said. “I think this regional compact is premised on the idea that you’re not going to have a healthy economy if you have an unhealthy population.”
Cuomo echoed Wolf’s comments, saying if the president wanted to impose federal directives, he has that power under the U.S. Constitution, but it wouldn’t work if such directives didn’t take into account each state’s unique position.
“Gov. Wolf’s point is right,” Cuomo said. “The states closed. … And when you say open, what does that mean? Does that mean you’re going to proclaim all businesses open? Isolation over? Come out of your homes, businesses are open? What does it mean? Governors need clarity.”