Delaware is joining a regional concerted effort to maximize potential for a careful, successful return to life as it was before the global coronavirus pandemic--though the First State still has some catching up to do, according to Governor John Carney, as the greater New York City area appears to be flattening the curve.
"[We're] a little bit behind, I think, those of you in northern New Jersey and New York City," he said during a conference call Monday. "Our message here at home, still, is 'Be safe. Stay at home.' When you go out, you know, observe appropriate social distancing and we will continue with that message, but at the same time, think about the timing of re-entry and getting life back to normal again, if that ever occurs."
Led by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Carney joined a call with governors Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Ned Lamont of Connecticut, Tom Wolf or Pennsylvania, and Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island to announce a collaborative effort to tackle lasting concerns regarding novel coronavirus COVID-19 as states look towards a future where shutdown restrictions begin to loosen, post-global pandemic.
"We're on the southern end of this region, but we're connected, importantly, by the I-95 corridor and the Amtrak Northeast region and so, in a very important way, we're part of the region, if only a small part," Carney said during the call. "This will help us as we think through what it takes to re-enter [normalcy] and to get our economies moving again."
Each state will be represented by a public health official, and economic development official, and that state's governor's Chief of Staff. Carney's office announced the roles would respectively be filled by Delaware Health and Social Services Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, Delaware Prosperity Partnership President and CEO Kurt Foreman, and the governor's Chief of Staff Sheila Grant will represent Delaware on the regional task force.
"We talked on a number of occasions about decisions that we've had to make in terms of shutting down businesses, in terms of business and supply chains that are connected, among our states," Carney said. "This will formalize that and really put before us all the decisions that we have coming ahead of us and, I think, maybe even more difficult than decisions on the front-end of this over the last month-and-a-half, two months, as we get on the other side of the peak."
In what he called "uncharted waters," Carney said everyone sharing information would allow for the most informed decisions possible on all fronts.
"How do we open things in a way that's safe?" Carney said. "I heard Governor Murphy say yesterday that we need to 'get the patient healthy before we can get the economy healthy' and I think he's exactly right in that and so working together, our economies are connected, our states are connected in a real way--in terms of transportation and visitation, and the rest--and so our working together, sharing our information and intelligence, I think will help each of us make better decisions."
Murphy had a more dire analogy.
"The house is still on fire," New Jersey's governor said. "We still have to put the fire out, but we do have to begin putting in place the pieces of the puzzle that we know we're going to need--both healthcare infrastructure, to make sure this doesn't reignite, as well as the steps we're going to need to take collectively as a region in terms of economic recovery...I think you could get that wrong. You inadvertently, even with the greatest of intentions, if you transpose those steps, or if you jam it too early, you could throw gasoline...on the fire and it could reignite and it's the last thing that any of us need right now. So, as painful as the economic reality is right now, and it's painful for all of us, it's not remotely as painful as it would be if we get the sequencing wrong or the timing wrong."
After the governors from other states each took a question, Cuomo was asked about the timeline for reopening states. He said he'd like to see a concentrated approach with states acting in unison, when possible, but certainly not taking actions that would harm one another.
"We said...we want it ASAP, but we want it smart. This is about being smart, first--not political--smart. Follow the data, learn from the other countries...oh it has to be within weeks," he said.
The task force's work begins Tuesday.