Governors across US reject Trump's virus timeline
AUSTIN, Texas — Governors across the nation on Tuesday rejected President Donald Trump's new accelerated timeline for reopening the U.S. economy, as they continued to impose more restrictions on travel and public life in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The dismissal of Trump's mid-April timeframe for a national reopening came from Republicans and Democrats, from leaders struggling to manage hot spots of the outbreak and those still bracing for the worst. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, the head of the National Governors Association and a Republican, called the messaging confusing since most leaders are still focused on enforcing the restrictions, not easing them. He accused the White House of running on a schedule made of some “imaginary clock.”
The pushback suggests Trump's talk of an early reboot is unlikely to gain traction. In most cases, it's state leaders — not the federal government — who are responsible for both imposing and lifting the stay-at-home orders and other restrictions intended to stop the contagion.
But the governors' reaction also revealed the striking disconnect and growing tensions between Trump and the state leaders closer to the front lines of a crisis that threatens to overwhelm U.S. hospitals and claim thousands of lives.
The president is eager to get the U.S. back to work as the crisis takes a political toll and the economy, which had been the cornerstone of his re-election bid, begins to wobble. The economic damage could be worse than the death toll from the virus, he has said. As soon as next week, Trump wants to take another look at recommendations about business closures and self-isolation, and said Tuesday the country could reopen by Easter Sunday — less than a month away. “Our people want to return to work," he said.
But governors suggested that view had little connection to the reality they're facing. California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said he and Trump are “clearly operating under a different set of assumptions." California, home to 40 million people and the world’s fifth-largest economy, reported hundreds of new known cases of COVID 19 and now has more than 2,200, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
In New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said the infection rate was doubling every three days and pleaded for more federal help as the number of cases in the state surpassed 20,000.
“If you ask the American people to choose between public health and the economy, then it's no contest. No American is going to say accelerate the economy at the cost of human life," Cuomo told reporters Tuesday. "Job one has to be save lives. That has to be the priority.”
Even some of Trump’s usual allies are continuing to move ahead with tighter controls on travel, commerce and mobility, despite the president's words. In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has endorsed stay-at-home orders that continued to spread through the biggest cities. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said public health needed to come first, and South Dakota Gov. Krisiti Noem is stressing limiting business activity, not relaxing them.
“This situation is not going to be over in a week," said Noem, whose state has more than two dozen cases. “We have another eight weeks until we see our peak infection rate."
The U.S. is now more than a week into an unprecedented effort to encourage all Americans to drastically scale back their public activities. The orders closing schools, restaurants and businesses have largely come from a patchwork of local and state governments — with areas hit hardest imposing the most restrictions, while other communities are still weighing tighter rules.