Wolf, Cuomo, four other governors lay out plans to open Northeast economies

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Gov. Tom Wolf has let Pennsylvania’s health secretary, Rachel Levine, take the public lead.

Pennsylvania has joined five other Northeastern states to develop plans to reopen their respective economies, which have been largely shuttered by the coronavirus outbreak.

The six Democratic governors laid out their plans in a virtual press call hours after President Donald Trump claimed that he, not governors, had the authority to decide whether to ease mitigation efforts across the nation.

Gov. Tom Wolf was among the governors on the call that also included New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has overseen a state at the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

"(This plan) recognizes that we need to come up with a smart plan for this uncertain future that lies ahead," Wolf said. "But it's also that we are creating a plan to let our people, the people we serve, know that we do indeed have a future."

More:Trump says he’ll decide on easing guidelines, not governors

More:York County has 24 new COVID-19 cases as state total surpasses 24K

Beginning immediately, the states — that also include Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware — will form "working groups" to develop plans to slowly reopen the regions' economies, Cuomo said.

The groups will be composed of top health officials, economic development and chiefs of staff.

The governors did not include a target date for when economies in their states would start to reopen. 

Earlier Monday, Cuomo announced that the spread of the coronavirus in New York seems to have plateaued.

"Doing it as a cooperative effort, where we learn from each other and we share information, share resources and we share intelligence," Cuomo said. "No one has done this before.”

In recent weeks, the president has called to reopen the economy that has shuttered business nationwide, leading to millions of Americans losing their jobs and prompting record numbers of applications for unemployment benefits.

The calls for a swift reopening of the economy, however, has caused concern among health experts who fear that doing so would prolong the effects of the virus and leave more Americans in harm's way.

Wolf on Monday dismissed Trump's claims that the decision to ease mitigation efforts rested on the president's shoulders, saying that if the governors had the authority to close down their states, they now have the responsibility to open them back up.

“This regional compact is premised on the idea that you’re not going to have a healthy economy if you’re not going to have a healthy population," Wolf said.

Pennsylvania at noon Monday announced the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases climbed to 24,199 with 524 virus-related deaths, the state Department of Health reported.

York County has had 331 confirmed cases with three virus-related deaths.

Roughly 558,000 cases had been confirmed in the U.S. — the most confirmed cases of any country in the world — with the death toll exceeding 22,000.

Republican state lawmakers in Pennsylvania — many of whom have attacked Wolf's decision earlier this month to shutter "non-life-essential businesses" have already introduced several bills to reopen businesses.

That includes legislation introduced by Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Adams, that would allow businesses to reopen if they abide by guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The bill still sits in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.