California, Oregon and Washington officials on Monday announced they will work together to formulate a plan to reopen the three states’ economies in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to announcing the “Western States pact,” Gov. Newsom said during his daily briefing that he will lay out the steps for California to begin lifting statewide stay-at-home rules on Tuesday.
“We began a process of establishing more formally what it would look like, and how we can begin the process, of the kind of incremental release of the stay-at-home orders that advance the fundamental principal of keeping people healthy, keeping people safe, using science to guide our decision,” he said.
A timeline has not been set, but officials from the three collaborating states expressed hope that “the West Coast will flip the script on COVID-19” in the coming weeks, a joint news release stated.
On the East Coast, New York, New Jersey Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Delaware are also working jointly to reopen their economies, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday morning.
The announcements came as President Trump has claimed he will make the ultimate decision about when to reopen the country. It’s not clear if he has any such authority to overrule local and state leaders, and the White House did not respond to requests from the Associated Press to clarify.
Paramount to lifting stay-at-home orders will be ensuring that the novel coronavirus won’t spread rapidly once current restrictions are lifted, according to the three states’ release. “Clear indicators” will be eyed as to when public life and business can begin a return to normal.
With California, Oregon and Washington accounting for more than 15% of the total U.S. population, officials noted that the “West Coast has an outsized stake in controlling and ultimately defeating COVID-19.”
As of Monday afternoon, the three states together reported more than 34,000 cases, the vast majority of those — 22,348 — in California.
Each state will have its own specific plan, but officials will follow a framework that adheres to the same principles — one that places residents’ health first, and makes decisions based on health outcomes and science.
Any large-scale reopening will be dependent upon a steep decline in the virus’ rate of spread.
“Through quick and decisive action, each of our states has made significant progress in flattening the curve and slowing the spread of COVID-19 among the broader public,” the release stated.
To that end, public health leaders have identified four key goals to control the virus.
Those goals include: ensuring populations who are most at risk from the coronavirus are protected; requiring adequate surge capacity at hospitals, as well as supplies of personal protective gear; mitigating non-direct health impacts of the virus; and developing a system for testing, tracking and isolating to keep the general public safe.
“COVID-19 doesn’t follow state or national boundaries,” the release stated. “It will take every level of government, working together, and a full picture of what’s happening on the ground.”