The governors of New Jersey, New York, and four other states said on Monday that they will form a regional council to coordinate efforts to restart their economies in a responsible manner to avoid reigniting the spread of the coronavirus.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Delaware Governor John Carney, and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo held a conference call with reporters on Monday afternoon to discuss how they will coordinate the working group’s efforts.
“We started this journey together, we are going to end it together,” Cuomo said.
The head health official, the head economic development official, and each governor’s chief of staff will be on the 18-member council.
“It’s a sharing of information,” Cuomo said. “We will compare notes, compare experiences, share resources, share data, look at other countries, and come up with a plan that is consistent, if not complimentary.”
Cuomo said leaders can’t move the economy forward unless they address public health issues. “They are parallel tracks,” he said, adding that the region is interconnected.
“All of these decisions affect everyone in the entire region,” Cuomo said. “This virus says ‘all of your lines and boundaries make no sense.’ I can get on the Amtrak train, and get on that line somewhere and infect scores of people.”
The death toll from COVID-19 in New York has topped 10,000, and more than 670 new deaths were recorded on Easter Sunday. But Cuomo said New York is controlling the spread of the coronavirus, and that it appears that the state has reached a plateau.
“That’s good news in a world of bad options,” Cuomo said. “We need to start looking forward to reopening but reopening with a smart plan. If you do it wrong, it can backfire. We have to do it in a smart, productive, coordinated way, in coordination with the other states, as a cooperative effort where what we learn, we share with each other, sharing resources and intelligence.”
Murphy also said the states must execute a plan that will keep the crisis from reigniting. “We need to put the pieces of the puzzle together the right way,” Murphy said, adding that all decisions should be based on science and data. “If you get that wrong, even with the greatest of intentions, if you transpose those steps, you can throw gasoline on the fire, and it’s the last thing any of us need right now.”
Wolf said ensuring the health of citizens has to be the top priority. “You are not going to have a healthy economy if you have an unhealthy population,” he said.
Cuomo said each state has different circumstances and different parts of each state have different circumstances. But everyone must coordinate as much as possible to avoid contradictory policies, especially when it comes to issues like banning large gatherings where the virus can spread rapidly.
Murphy told the other governors the virus has not plateaued in New Jersey. “We are a couple of beats behind New York,” he said. “Whenever it is safe to responsibly begin reopening, we need to do that in coordination. It’s an overwhelmingly prudent approach. We do know this — an economic recovery only occurs on the back of a complete healthcare recovery. If we do this wrong, you could have inadvertent unintended consequences that could be grave…This is the fight of our lives and we are not out of the woods yet. The reopening will be a challenge.”
Lamont said Connecticut is directly connected with the other states, and agreed they must all coordinate efforts. He said the Interstate 95 commuter corridor in his state is also the COVID-19 corridor. “We need to make sure we don’t reopen too early,” he said. “Some other places have seen a small resurgence. It would be so demoralizing for our economies.”
Wolf said the states need to resore the economies, but also a sense of hope. Cuomo agreed, and said the emotional toll the crisis is taking on people can’t be quantified.
“People need to know there is a new day coming,” Cuomo said. “It may be different than past days, but it can be a bright day,”