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New York spearheads coalition of states for post-coronavirus recovery

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The states will coordinate their efforts to relax restrictions in the coming weeks

Max Touhey

Officials in New York and six neighboring states will collaborate on plans to ease restrictions that have ground life to a halt amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Delaware said Monday that they will work together to coordinate plans to reopen the region’s economies—the same day New York passed the grim milestone of 10,000 deaths from COVID-19, with more than 195,000 cases statewide.

“State boundaries mean very little to this virus,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a press conference announcing the coordinated effort. “Let’s be smart and let’s be cooperative, and let’s learn from one another.”

Starting Tuesday, top health and economic officials from across the northeast will form a working group to “study the data, study the research, study the experience of other countries, and give us guidelines and parameters to go forward,” Cuomo said. Other nearby states, such as Vermont, are in talks with the coalition, which will result in a plan within the coming weeks, officials said.

The governors, all of whom are Democrats with the exception of Massachusetts, stressed the importance of coordinating their efforts as not to cause an unintentional flare up of the virus by relaxing restrictions too quickly or in isolation of other neighboring governments.

“If the protocols on one side of the Hudson for a restaurant or a bar are different than the other, you could have inadvertent unintended consequences which could be grave,” said New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. “Reopening ourselves back up will be equally challenging.”

In another example of the states’ interconnected economies, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont noted that the bulk of his state’s COVID-19 cases have emerged along the I-95 and Metro-Noth corridor, what he called the “commuter corridor but also the COVID corridor.”

The collaboration is seemingly a rebuke to President Donald Trump who insisted in a Monday Tweet that he alone can declare the United States reopen for business. Asked whether the collaboration would supersede a federal plan, Cuomo acknowledged that federal action would “trump the state plan, pardon the pun, if it fit within the constitution of the law.”

Governors across the region emphasized that officials decisions will be based on facts and science, and chiefly, that economic recovery can only occur in the wake of a public health recovery.

“The sequence,” said Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, “is you’ve got to get people healthy first, and then you can reopen the economy.”