Isolation, even in the time of the coronavirus, is not the future for states along the West Coast.
As normal life and nonessential businesses are halted throughout the U.S., governors of California, Oregon and Washington are joining together in an effort to get their respective economies and populations moving again, in as safe a way as possible.
In a joint statement, Governors Gavin Newsom of California, Kate Brown of Oregon and Jay Inslee of Washington said they are attempting to “flip the script on COVID-19” and how it’s “preyed upon our interconnectedness.”
“With our states acting in close coordination and collaboration [we can] ensure the virus can never spread wildly in our communities,” they wrote. “We have agreed to work together on a shared approach for reopening our economies — one that identifies clear indicators for communities to restart public life and business.”
Each state is in the process of “building a state specific plan” for reopening their economies, as a vaccine for the coronavirus is still more than a year from being available to the public, but all of the states will be following “a West Coast framework.” The governors called the move “a regional pact to recovery.”
The principles of the plan for each state will include a focus on the health of residents, with the governors noting the West Coast “has an outsized stake in controlling and ultimately defeating COVID-19;” a consensus, “guided by data” that shows a decline in the spread of the virus, on when to allow a “large scale reopening” of business; and a commitment to work together on ensuring hospitals are equipped and vulnerable populations, like people in nursing homes and long-term care, are cared for.
“COVID-19 doesn’t follow state or national boundaries,” the governors added. “It will take every level of government, working together, and a full picture of what’s happening on the ground.”
The governors’ move comes the same day as a number of governors on the East Coast agreed to start having state officials work closely together on combating the coronavirus and plans to reopen businesses, including the leaders of New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
Efforts on both coasts appear to be in response to a lack of guidance by the federal government and whiplash-inducing comments and frequent false statements by President Trump regarding the coronavirus and how the U.S. should go about lifting measures put in place to combat the virus, but that have derailed the economy. Despite putting the onus on states and counties to individually order citizens to stay at home or wear masks, for instance, Trump on Monday insisted that the states now have no decision making ability on when they should reopen.
The governors appear to disagree.
As for the lifting of widespread “safer at home,” or lockdown orders for citizens and businesses, the West Coast governors noted that will only happen with “the development of a system for testing, tracking and isolating” the disease in their states. Already, Los Angeles County has pushed back the end date for its initial four-week lockdown by a month.
“We are seeing a true flattening of the curve,” Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said on Friday, describing a decrease in the daily number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. “But because there are so many people infected, we have to continue this.” The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in California just surpassed 20,000 and is approaching 8,000 in L.A. County.
Gov. Newsom did not give an end date when he made “safer at home” a state-wide mandate last month, admitting he did not have a realistic timeline to offer the public.
“To the extent this directive is open-ended, it’s because we can’t give you a deadline we really believe in,” Newsom said during a press conference at the time. “We could say two weeks, but we don’t know.”
The state’s lockdown is approaching its sixth week, with no clear end in sight.
Newsom’s office said Monday that the governor will be giving a more detailed update on the coronavirus measures on Tuesday. However, it does not seem likely that any sort of immediate lift of the measures will take place. Newsom has written on Twitter several times in the last few days, urging people to continue staying home whenever possible and continuing “social distancing” practices where people in public are at least six feet apart.
“I can’t stress this enough — physical distancing is working, California is flattening the curve,” Newsom wrote Friday on Twitter. “But we can only continue that progress if we continue to stay home and practice physical distancing. You have the power to literally save lives. We can’t stop now.”
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