ALBANY -- Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday held his usual daily briefing, then held a second press conference in the afternoon to announce a regional task force to plan for restarting the economy.
“This virus says 'All your boundary lines make no sense,'” he observed.
With governors from five other states on a conference phone call, Cuomo announced a multi-state task force to design a plan for reopening business, schools, and society in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each state will bring its head public health official, its top economic development official, plus each governor's chief of staff, together to develop a plan to reopen.
There is no schedule, though Cuomo said “It has to be within weeks.”
The group will develop guidelines and parameters for moving forward. So far, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware are participating with New York, but the governors invited any Northeastern state governor to join.
“The best minds from six states are better than the best minds from any state, just by definition,” Cuomo said.
Each state has the freedom to proceed as they need to, but Cuomo said the purpose of the group is to, at the very least, coordinate actions, even if they are discordant.
“Ideally,” he said, “we will act in unison. But even if we can't, we will at least act in coordination.”
Each governor spoke briefly, and both Connecticut's Ned Lamont and Delaware's John Carney noted the concentration of the virus in their states is along the I-95 corridor and Metro-North and Amtrak lines, showing the inter-connectedness of the region's workforce.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf also said his state has seen a concentration of infection along I-95 and the Amtrak Northeast corridor.
“We're a little behind New York on the curve,” he said, saying the rate of infections in Pennsylvania are still rising sharply.
Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo spoke to the president's statement today that he alone has the authority to re-open businesses and schools.
“Throughout the crisis, the governors have been the ones to take action and protect the people. It's only right we lead on reopening.”
Governor Cuomo was also asked to respond to the president's statement, and he expressed willingness to follow a federal plan, but said any plan had to have both clarity and detailed instruction.
“He left it up to the state to close,” Cuomo said. “And we had to find our own supplies. That was the model of management. He can change the model if it's consistent with the constitution and the law, but then explain the model.”
Cuomo ticked off a list of questions he'd have if the federal government took over management of the response and reopening: what would be plans for different population areas, different areas of infection, what precautions would be needed where, which businesses would open and how, and which schools would open and how they would operate. And, he asked, how will testing be done? At this point, he said, no state has the capacity to test to the level needed to reopen safely.
“You have to be specific. This was not smooth sailing to this date, to be honest. Explain to me the details. You want to make the decisions? Make them in a way I can follow and explain it to me. This isn't conceptual. It's a very specific answer. You're president of the United States. You want to put forth a model? Tell me the model.”
Cuomo pointed out that this pandemic is a federally declared disaster, which means the federal government should have been in charge and managed the response from the start.
“Why didn't they?” he asked. “I don't know.”