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Democratic governors talk ‘new normal’

With some states in the region announcing a plateau in new COVID-19 cases, it was time to talk about the process for someday soon getting people back to normal.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo set up a conference call Monday afternoon with fellow Democratic governors — Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Ned Lamont of Connecticut, John Carney of Delaware, and Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island — and representatives of news media from those states.

During the call, the governors talked about working together as they re-open their states to “the new normal.”

“We’ve been talking today about the fact that New York believes we have reached a plateau in the number of cases,” Cuomo said. “That is relatively good news.”

“Everyone is very anxious to get out of the house, get back to work, get the economy moving,” he said. “The art form is going to be doing that smartly, productively… We should start looking forward to reopening, but reopening with a plan – a smart plan.”

“We indeed do have a future,” Wolf said. “This partnership recognizes that we need to come up with a specific and a smart plan for the uncertain future that lies before us.”

“As important as coming up with a responsible plan, as we figure out how we’re going to reopen our schools, business, is to restore the sense of hope that this pandemic has taken away from so many of us,” Wolf said.

“This virus doesn’t care about state borders,” Raimondo said. “Our response shouldn’t either.”

“If there are different rules on opposite sides of the Hudson or the Delaware the inadvertent unintended consequences could be grave,” Murphy said.

Cuomo agreed that the states must work together to avoid a situation in which “what you do in New York just pushes people across a bridge to another state.”

The governors announced that each state would send its top health and economic development officials, and the governor’s chief-of-staff to collaborate on the plan.

Developing a plan “in coordination seems to be an overwhelmingly prudent approach,” Murphy said.

Carney said the re-opening may be “more difficult than decisions on the front end of this,” but that working together will help ensure the best possible decisions are made.

“Like all of you, I am constantly thinking about what it’s going to take to safely re-open our economy” Raimondo said. “I don’t want to keep anybody out of work one day longer than is necessary. By working together and sharing our best ideas we will be much more likely to get it right.”

The working group will get to work immediately and have a fairly short time to hit the target.

Asked about a timeline, Cuomo said, “We’re going to start literally tomorrow. We want it ASAP, but we want it smart.”

“This is about being smart,” he said. “Not political.”

He said the states will “study the data. Learn from the other countries. Coordinate a set of guidelines, ASAP, but smart.”

“It has to be within weeks,” Cuomo said.

When the conference opened up to questions, several reporters asked about the role of the governors and the role of the president.

Wolf said he believes the states are responsible for re-opening. “Seeing as we had the responsibility for closing the state down, we have the responsibility for opening it back up.”

Cuomo said the governors are ready to act, but that President Donald Trump has the authority to “change the model.”

“Gov. Wolf was right,” Cuomo said. “Trump took a position that it was a state decision. That was the model of management that was promulgated so far.”

“If he wants to change the model, he can change the model,” Cuomo said. “He’s the President of the United States. But, then change the model and explain it.”

Although Cuomo said a plan that was uniform across all the states would be ideal, he and the other governors do not expect that to be the case. The states have different circumstances. “I would love to do everything in unison,” he said. “But we’re different.”

Schools would be one of the earliest types of entities to re-open, according to Cuomo.

“You can’t open businesses if people don’t have child care,” Cuomo said. “If you want to open businesses, you have to have the transportation system open.”

“If you don’t have the fundamental systems online, you have nothing,” he said.

Cuomo never announced that schools in New York would be shut down through the end of this academic year.

Wolf took that step for Pennsylvania schools on April 9.

He did not immediately address whether that would complicate the reopening process.

The governors agreed that the economic process must not supersede the public health process.

“The house is still on fire,” Murphy said. “An economic recovery only occurs on the back of a complete health care recovery. If you transpose those steps… you could inadvertently throw gasoline on the fire.”

“Addressing public health and addressing the economy, they’re both first,” Cuomo said. “You can’t address one without the other.”

Getting life back to normal, even a ‘new normal’ is an important step for people and the entire country.

“You can’t quantify the emotional toll that this has taken on people,” Cuomo said. “There’s a new day coming. A different day. It can be a bright day.”

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