Multi-state coalition to develop plan on how and when to reopen economy

A coalition with representatives of seven northeast states will be formed to work together toward developing a plan on how and when to reopen the economy in the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The regional approach will include New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Delaware and Massachusetts.

“None of us have done this before,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a joint phone conference with the governors of each state Monday afternoon. The plan was initially outlined as six states, but Mr. Cuomo said Massachusetts agreed to join following the announcement.

The initiative will allow the states to share resources and scientific resources, Mr. Cuomo said.

Each state will name a public health official and economic development official to join a working group with each governor’s chief of staff for a total of 18 people. The group “will start work immediately on designing a reopening plan,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Public health concerns and economic reactivation issues will both be considered, Mr. Cuomo said. “They’re parallel tracks,” he said.

“An economic recovery only occurs on the back of a complete health care recovery,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said. “And that order is essential.”

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont described how the majority of cases in the state are among people along the I-95 corridor. He said it’s the commuter corridor, “but also the COVID corridor.”

The goal is to avoid a situation where people are crossing state borders because one state has reopened its bars before another, for example.

Mr. Cuomo said a plan would need to be in place “within weeks.” Other states are welcome to join the coalition, he said.

“It’s a sharing of information,” he said. “And coming up with a plan that is consistent, if not complementary, one state to the other. And certainly not where one state does something that is counter to another state.”

The governors noted the decision to shut down the economy was left to individual states, so they believe it is their decision of when to reopen. There have been questions of whether the federal government will implement its own plan.

“Let’s see what the federal plan is,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Without any guidance, they took the position it was a state position. It was a state’s responsibility for purchasing supplies. If they want to change the model, they can change the model.”

Earlier Monday, Mr. Cuomo said he believes “the worst is over” if the current precautions and measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus continue.

He said there is no “on/off” switch to when things will return to normal and there will be no headline one day saying “Hallelujah, it’s over.”

“I think you can say the worst is over because the worst here is people dying,” he said. “This worst is people die.”

Questioned later on whether that message could give a false sense of hope, Mr. Cuomo said his job is to present the facts, which in this case show the outbreak has seemingly plateaued, so the curve has begun to flatten.

He said the numbers in terms of hospitalizations and ICU admissions are declining for no other reason than the measures imposed to curb the virus’ spread.

“Destiny did not do that,” he said.

He said his message has consistently been to “stay the course.”

“I say that 100 times to an annoying, repetitive level,” he said. “But the facts are facts and I’m not going to lie to the public.”

He said “we are controlling the spread” and people can take solace in the fact that if they isolate at home, they can avoid contracting the virus.

In terms of the slow process of reopening the economy, Mr. Cuomo said the key is measuring the infection rate. If the infection rate begins to climb, then “you know you’ve opened the valve too fast. That is the delicate balance we have to work through.”

• Mr. Cuomo said total deaths connected to COVID-19 in New York have now surpassed 10,000 in just over a month. There were 671 fatalities reported on Sunday, bringing the total to 10,056. He said to see nearly 700 people die on Easter Sunday is “especially tragic.”

The number of daily fatalities had been above 700 the past week.

The number of total cases is approaching 200,000 in New York.