NEW YORK (Reuters) – A total of nine states on the U.S. East and West coasts said on Monday they had begun planning for the slow reopening of their economies and lifting of strict stay-at-home orders amid signs the worst had passed in the U.S. coronavirus pandemic.
The Northeast states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will work with Delaware, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island in coordinating to gradually reopen their economies together, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
“Nobody has been here before, nobody has all the answers,” Cuomo said during an open conference call with his five counterparts. “Addressing public health and the economy: Which one is first? They’re both first. ”
The governors of California, Oregon and Washington said they also had reached an agreement on a shared approach to restarting businesses, although they gave no firm timeline and said they would be guided by the health of residents first .
U.S. President Donald Trump said earlier on Monday that any decision on restarting the economy was his to make.
Tensions between state governors and Trump have bubbled up since the outbreak worsened a month ago and emerged in the debate about when and how to restart economic activity.
Legal experts say a U.S. president has limited power under the U.S. Constitution to order citizens back to their places of employment, or cities to reopen government buildings, transportation, or local businesses to reopen.
“It is the decision of the president, and for many good reasons,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Monday. He went on to write that his administration was working closely with the governors.
“A decision by me, in conjunction with the governors and input from others, will be made shortly!” Trump’s tweet said.
Political leaders said a reopening of the economy may hinge on more widespread testing and cautioned that lifting of stay-at-home restrictions too early could reignite the outbreak. The Trump administration has signaled May 1 as a potential date for easing the restrictions.