Early this week, Gov. Tom Wolf made a pact with six other Northeastern states’ governors to collaborate on an approach to reopening the state’s economy and get people back to work once it’s safe to do so.
The group includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts, with the idea that these states “have one integrated regional economy,” the governor’s office said. Each state will send a public health official, an economic development expert and a chief of staff to create a collaborative regional framework to gradually lift the stay-at-home orders.
A similar group has formed on the West Coast, with governors from California, Oregon and Washington saying they’ll collaborate on when to ease social distancing directives. These coalitions were announced this week, as President Donald Trump also announced his council for reopening the country, along with guidelines for governors.
The president’s plan includes multiple phases. For instance, phase one still restricts social gatherings of more than 10 people, while phase two allows that travel could resume and social gatherings could happen with 50 people or less, the Associated Press reported. However, in a reversal of his earlier statements claiming he had “total” authority to reopen local economies, Trump told governors, “You’re going to call your own shots” Thursday afternoon in a conference call, according to AP.
As Pennsylvania’s largest city, what role will Philadelphia have in influencing decision making around reopening?
Mayor Jim Kenney told Technical.ly during a press conference this week that he’d had a conversation with Wolf, who’d agreed that Philadelphia was unique from the rest of the state because of its large population and should have input.
Kenney also said although these states border each other, government leaders are also considering how the virus impacts regions — for example, South Jersey and surrounding suburbs — because they share like issues.
Wolf has been “nothing but open and cooperative,” Kenney said of his conversation with the governor. But the mayor added that they have no clear timeline for when the economy will reopen.
“I think people are a little too overly optimistic. I don’t know about large gatherings of people at a sporting event any time soon, and whether or not you can go to a restaurant. There’s all kinds of opportunities and issues that come about,” Kenney said. “I’m confident we’ll have our say, and we’ll have the cooperation of Governor Wolf and the rest of the governors.”
Kurt Foreman, CEO of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, is one of the representatives from neighboring state Delaware. He told Technical.ly this week that the point is not to rush a reopening, but to make sure that any steps toward reopening cause the least amount of harm to regional neighbors.
“Given that all of us may or may not be at the exact same point at the same exact moment, we want to make sure that one or two [states] don’t cause problems for the others unintentionally,” Foreman said. “My role may be to try and figure out what we’re hearing from the business community and try to help with how do we roll [the reopening] out.”
Wolf said that for now, his focus is on the safety of Pennsylvania residents and he’ll continue to take necessary steps to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“I also recognize that we must look ahead and take a measured, careful approach to prepare for the future while ensuring that we don’t undo all of our efforts,” the governor said in a statement.