Murphy joins governors of N.Y., Pa., Del., Conn., R.I. to create Northeast task force on reopening region’s economy

Gov. Phil Murphy joined with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the governors of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island to announce that they are creating a regional task force that will work to create a plan to reopen the economy in Northeast as it recovers from the COVID-19 crisis.

Each state will provide a health care official, economic development official and the chief of staff of each governor to create a working group.

All of the governors, speaking on an afternoon teleconference, said it’s important the states in the region work together on decisions regarding health care, the economy and education.

The governors said they will pool resources to work together — all while acknowledging that each state and each area will require its own needs.

Murphy and the others stressed that all initiatives must begin with health care issues — and that the health and safety of residents should take precedence over economic issues.

“An economic recovery only occurs on the back of a complete health care recovery, and that order is essential,” Murphy said.

Transposing those steps could be disastrous, Murphy said.

“Gov. Cuomo and I have talked about if the protocols on one side of the Hudson or the other — or, similarly, across the Delaware — you could have inadvertent, unintended consequences, which could be grave,” he said. “So, getting this right, both the timing, the infrastructure as well as input from both health care experts as well as economic development experts in addition to our government colleagues, seems to me to be a smart way to go. This is the fight of our lives. And we’re not out of the woods yet. And reopening ourselves will be equally challenging.”

Cuomo, whose state has been hit the hardest in the region and the country, said he feels the situation in New York has plateaued. It’s why he is looking toward the next step.

“We should start looking forward to reopening, but reopening with a plan, a smart plan,” he said. “Because, if you do it wrong, it can backfire and we’ve seen that in other places around the globe.

Cuomo also stressed that each state will have different issues and challenges. The key, he said, is to create a plan that is flexible.

“I don’t believe we wind up with a fully common strategy,” he said. “You have different states within different positions. The plan has to fit the facts and the circumstances.”

Murphy said New Jersey’s geography all but demands it works with its neighbors.

“New Jersey’s the densest state in America, and we’re in that corridor that is so unique, and it was imperative to not just do the things that we needed to do within our four walls as we closed our state down, but to do it in close coordination with New York and Pennsylvania and Delaware and Connecticut, especially,” he said.

Cuomo agreed.

“Everyone is very anxious to get out of the house, get back to work, get the economy moving. Everyone agrees with that, but the art form is going to be doing that smartly and doing that productively and doing that in a coordinated way, doing that in coordination with the other states in the area — and doing it in a cooperative effort where we learn from each other and we share information and we share resources and we share intelligence,” he said.

The uniqueness of the situation assures the plan will need to be adjusted along the way, Cuomo said.

“No one has done this before,” he said.

Cuomo and Murphy said decisions will adjusted based on data, science and results.

“This has to be informed by experts and data,” Cuomo said. “You take one step forward, you see how it works, and then you measure the next step. And to the extent we can do that together, that is the best course.”

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