Delaware to join five other states to prepare to reopen society

DOVER — Delaware is teaming up with five other states, including two of its neighbors, to coordinate efforts to reopen daily life and the economy in the coming weeks and months.

The First State will partner with New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Rhode Island, forming a task force to share data and work together as the coronavirus hopefully abates, the states announced Monday.

“We’re looking forward to reopening but reopening with a plan and a smart plan, because if you do it wrong, it can backfire, and we’ve seen that in other places around the globe,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who seems to have been the driving force behind the partnership.

Officials voiced hope that the initiative will allow the tens of millions of Americans who live in these states to eventually return to some semblance of normalcy, even though they emphasized the future remains murky.

Under the partnership, the states will collaborate “to develop a fully integrated regional framework to gradually lift the states’ stay at home orders while minimizing the risk of increased spread of the virus,” per Gov. John Carney’s office.

Noting many people live in one of the states in the region but work in another, Gov. Carney described the effort as formalizing an existing decision-making process. He said he has been in regular contact with the governors of Pennsylvania and New Jersey to ensure policies, such as what businesses must be closed, in the greater Philadelphia area are consistent.

“Our states are connected in a real way,” Gov. Carney said.

As Gov. Cuomo put it, “state boundaries mean very little to this virus.”

Each state will send three representatives: a health official, an economic official and the governor’s chief of staff. Serving on the task force for Delaware will be Kara Odom Walker, secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services Secretary; Kurt Foreman, president and CEO of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, a public-private entity that helps boost economic development here; and Sheila Grant, Gov. Carney’s chief of staff.

Monday’s announcement was made over a conference call and broadcast on national news networks, although they focused more on the impact on the New York City area.

While President Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed a desire to reopen the economy sooner rather than later, the governors said they view public health not just as the most important priority but as indispensable to a strong economy.

“We need to get the patient healthy before we can get the economy healthy,” Gov. Carney said.

No timetable was specified, with the governors noting they will see how the outbreak continues to develop. After all, this whole situation is entirely unprecedented for everyone going through it.

President Trump tweeted earlier Monday it is up to the White House to decide when and how to reopen states. The governors barely addressed the claim during the conference call, aside from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf disputing its validity in response to a question from a reporter.

Jonathan Starkey, a spokesman for Gov. Carney, in a text message wrote that while the states have been working closely together in response to COVID-19 for months, the partnership was formulated over the weekend.

While Gov. Cuomo said “the worst is over” Monday in regard to the virus’ spread in New York, the peak is still to come in Delaware, according to state officials and health experts. The First State had seen 1,761 cases and 41 deaths as of Monday, an increase from 673 and 14 one week earlier.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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