Northeastern governors forge coalition to reopen their economies

April 15, 2020

blurry image of people in suits walking

Governors in the region plan to work together to gradually reopen their state economies. Credit: Adobe Stock

Seven governors from New England and Mid-Atlantic states have agreed to develop a regional framework for gradually lifting the stay-at-home orders and enabling people to return to work, while minimizing the risk of increased spread of the virus.

The governors will form a multi-state council, comprising one health expert, one economic development expert, and the governor’s chief of staff from each state. Participating states include Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

The goal is to develop a “smart” plan for reopening the states’ economies, “and doing that with a cooperative effort in which we learn from one another, and we share information, and we share resources, and we share intelligence,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said during a press conference on Monday with five other governors participating via conference call.

Cuomo added the states likely will not create a “fully common strategy,” but ones that will work well together.

Formalizing existing collaborations

The governors emphasized the regional nature of the states’ economies, in which it is not uncommon for residents of one state to work in another, particularly in the New York City metropolitan area and the greater Philadelphia region.

Governor John Carney of Delaware said the agreement will formalize the collaborative efforts already underway among Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. “We’ve coordinated on many decisions we’ve had to make in terms of shutting down businesses and supply chains,” said Carney.

In Connecticut, the lion’s share of recorded COVID-19 cases are in communities along the I-95 corridor, which is the main transit point for hundreds of thousands of people who commute daily to jobs between Connecticut and New York, said Governor Ned Lamont.

“It’s the commuter corridor and it’s also the COVID corridor, which is why it’s so important that we work together thoughtfully on this, and listen to the experts and make sure we don’t pull the trigger too early,” he said.

Lamont added that officials hope to avoid the recent experiences of Singapore and a few other Asian countries, which had early success in containing the rate of new infections, but have seen a resurgence of cases fueled by a wave of students and expatriates returning from abroad.

“That would be so demoralizing for our economies,” said Lamont.

In New York, Cuomo said that efforts to control the virus had led to a plateau in hospitalizations in recent days. Officials have also reported a decline in the number of positive new tests, though other states, such as New Jersey, are still seeing increases.

Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy have discussed the need to create the same protocols around reopening businesses on either side of the Hudson River, which divides the two states. If restaurants and bars are allowed to serve customers in one state but not the other, due to health concerns, “you could have inadvertent consequences which could be grave,” said Murphy.

“We do know that an economic recovery only occurs on the back of a complete healthcare recovery. And that order is essential,” he said.

As the council considers steps for reopening state economies while minimizing health risks, officials plan to explore a broad range of actions, including shared protocols for screening people entering businesses, opportunities for using more touchless technologies in everyday life, and “doing a deep dive, industry by industry, on new guidelines for this new normal,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo.

“The reality is this virus doesn’t care about state borders, and our response shouldn’t either,” she said.

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