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Governors react to Trump's plan to reopen U.S from coronavirus lockdowns

A number of governors said that while they would take the president's guidelines under consideration, they were wary of moving too fast.
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WASHINGTON — After President Donald Trump laid out his road map for reopening state economies, a number of governors sought to temper regional expectations, raising the alarm about moving too fast in the face of unresolved issues like a lack of mass testing.

“They are helpful,” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, said Friday on MSNBC of the guidelines, which encourage areas that meet certain criteria to begin easing social distancing restrictions by May 1.

“We didn't want something more heavy-handed telling the governors what they had to do. That wouldn't have worked. Every region is a little bit different,” Lamont said.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said in a statement Thursday that while the White House’s suggestions were appreciated, "the plain overriding fact is we cannot put the cart before the horse.”

She said that public health experts have warned that New Mexico has not yet reached a point where it is safe to reopen, and “doing so prematurely” would endanger many more people.

Trump unveiled his three-phase plan for how states should reopen publicly during the daily White House coronavirus task force briefing Thursday after discussing the guidelines on a conference call with governors.

The plan says that if states and localities meet certain criteria such a decrease in positive COVID-19 cases or hospital capacity over a two-week period, they can begin opening businesses, restaurants and schools in various phases. Governors have the final say over how their individual states will resume their operations.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican and the chairman of the National Governors Association, said that before governors begin to ease restrictions put in place to control the spread of the coronavirus, states must have the ability to test more people as well as the ability to conduct contact tracing. Hospitals also must have adequate personal protective equipment for health care workers, he said in a statement Friday.

Anticipating Trump's announcement Thursday, Hogan told NBC's "Today" show that now would be the “worst possible time for us to try to put more people out there and endanger them.”

Trump tweeted Friday that the states were responsible for stepping up their testing abilities.

“This is not a cookie-cutter approach where one size fits all,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said Thursday of Trump’s plan during a virtual town hall with local newspaper The Advocate. “We don’t like it, but we’re a hotspot here.”

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, announced during a news conference Friday that he was extending a shelter-in-place order for an additional week. Reeves said that while he wanted to announce that his state could ease restrictions and open up, “we are still in the eye of the storm.”

In Alaska, Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, said Thursday that Alaskans would be “charting our own course” despite Trump’s advice to reopen things by May 1.

Some governors, like New York's Andrew Cuomo, criticized the lack of federal assistance being provided to states to implement the plan.

“Don’t give them this massive undertaking that has never been done before and then not give them any resources to do it,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said Friday of the Trump plan at his daily news briefing. “Don’t ask the states to do this. .. It’s up to the governors, up to the governors, up to the governors. OK. Is there any funding so I can do these things that you want us to do? No, that is passing the buck without passing the bucks.”

He added, "How many times do you want me to say thank you? And I'm saying thank you for doing your job. This was your role as president."

Other governors praised Trump’s efforts to help states, though none seemed to fully embrace the plan for their own region. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican, said Friday that his state could use the president’s plan as a baseline, but it doesn’t have to follow every single thing it says. DeSantis said Thursday that he would be assembling a task force to explore how Florida could reopen. The Miami-Herald reported that as DeSantis has touted transparency, the state has blocked certain COVID-19 information from the public.

While many governors are nowhere near ready to ease up on restrictions, some governors are already preparing to soon give the greenlight for various businesses in their states to reopen. Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott, a Republican, for example, announced Friday the creation of a “strike force” to reopen the state and that beginning next week, restrictions on surgeries will be loosened, state parks will reopen and stores will be able to shift to a “retail to go” mode like restaurants next Friday.

In Vermont, Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, said Friday that some businesses will be able to reopen by Monday if they follow strict safety rules.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, is also eyeing changes, according to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, saying Thursday that his state just has to be prepared to handle demand at health care facilities as the cases still pop up.

“There’s ways we can start easing back into the economy,” he said.

CORRECTION (April 17, 2020, XX p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated Vermont Gov. Phil Scott’s party affiliation. He is a Republican, not a Democrat.