© Reuters. A Patel Brothers grocery worker spits and wipes a shopping cart during the worldwide Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Chicago
By Maria Caspani and Jessica Resnick-Ault
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Seven northeastern states and three on the west coast closed regional pacts on Monday to coordinate the gradual reopening of their economies without a resurgence of coronavirus infections once the outbreak appeared to be waning.
New York, by far the most affected state, will work closely with nearby New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island to develop strategies to jointly facilitate last month's stay orders to curb coronavirus transmission, said the governor of New York, Andrew said Cuomo.
Massachusetts later announced that it would join the East Coast Coalition.
"Nobody was here before, nobody has all the answers," said Cuomo during an open conference call with five colleagues. "Addressing public health and the economy: which one is the first? They are both the first."
Regardless, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington announced a similar agreement to develop a common approach to lifting socially distancing measures. They said they should "see a decrease in the spread of the virus before large scale reopening is possible."
The 10 heads of state, all Democrats with the exception of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, gave no timetable for ending social barriers that the vast majority of more than 100 million people in their states have been idling.
However, they emphasized that decisions about when and how non-essential companies, schools and universities should be reopened put the health of residents in the foreground and are based on science rather than politics.
In the past few weeks, US President Donald Trump, a Republican who had hailed a vibrant US economy as the centerpiece of his reelection offer before the pandemic, has been pushing to get Americans back to work soon. Before the governors' announcement on Monday, he said that any decision to restart US trade was his decision.
Tensions between governors and Trump have increased since the public health crisis worsened a month ago, and have reappeared in the debate on economic needs versus public health priorities.
Legal experts say the U.S. Constitution has limited powers to order citizens to return to work, to force cities to reopen government buildings and transportation, or to reopen local businesses.
"It's the president's decision, and for many good reasons," Trump wrote on Twitter Monday, adding that his government is working closely with the governors.
"A decision from me in collaboration with the governors and contributions from others will be made shortly!" Trump's tweet said.
Political leaders said that reopening the economy could depend on more extensive testing, and warned that prematurely canceling home stay orders could trigger the outbreak again. The Trump administration has announced May 1 as a possible date for easing restrictions.
DEATH GREAT TOPS 23,000
According to Reuters, the number of deaths in the United States from COVID-19, the highly infectious lung disease caused by the virus, was over 23,000 of more than 575,000 known US infections on Monday. The United States, with the third largest population in the world by country, has had more deaths from COVID-19 than any other nation.
At least 1,500 new deaths in the United States were reported on Monday, well below last week's total of around 2,000 deaths every 24 hours. The state of New York is hardest hit with over 10,000 deaths, most of which are in and around New York City.
Cuomo said Monday that "the worst is over for his state," but warned that if we "do something stupid" and loosen these restrictions too quickly, gains in social distancing could be reversed.
Wyoming reported its first death on Monday from coronavirus, the last state to report a death.
Official statistics that rule out deaths outside of hospitals have underestimated the actual number of people who have succumbed to COVID-19, health experts said. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T)
New York Health Commissioner Dr. Acknowledging "tightening" of the swab supply chain needed for coronavirus testing, Oxiris Barbot said it was part of a "national and international challenge" to advance testing.
Republican governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, said the tests for corona virus had improved, "but we don't have enough. Nobody has enough."
"There is limited supply for massive demand," Sununu told CNN.
To mitigate the effects of the closure on the US economy, the top two Democrats of the US Congress called on Republicans on Monday to approve more funds for national tests. Efforts to provide new aid to US small businesses failed in Congress when the health emergency failed to overcome the partisan differences between Republicans and Democrats.