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Massachusetts has joined six other northeastern states to coordinate strategies for reopening their economies after the coronavirus pandemic eases, Gov. Charlie Baker's office said Monday.
An aide to Baker confirmed the Republican governor will participate in the compact along with Democratic governors from Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York had earlier announced Baker would be part of the coalition.
As in other states participating in the deal, Baker's office maintained it's too early to consider easing restrictions. But the governors said they want to be prepared to move ahead once the disease threat recedes.
"We have had conversations with a variety of folks in our economic and health care communities, and in our public health community, about what it might look like once we get past this, and we will talk about that at some point, but I really don't want people to start to think today that this is over," Baker said during a press conference Monday.
Economic and health experts from each state will be part of a group working on a framework for the states' reopening plans, Cuomo said.
Republican President Trump responded to the governors' plans by saying he is the ultimate decision-maker.
"When somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total," Trump said at Monday's White House coronavirus briefing. "The governors know that."
But he offered no specifics about the source of his authority or his plan to reopen the economy.
Anxious to put the twin public health and economic crises behind him, Trump has backed federal social distancing recommendations that expire at the end of the month. But it has been governors and local leaders who have instituted mandatory restrictions, including shuttering schools and closing non-essential businesses.
Taking to Twitter, Trump wrote that some are "saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect ... it is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons."
Trump can use his bully pulpit to pressure states to act or threaten them with consequences, but the Constitution gives public health and safety responsibilities primarily to state and local officials.
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