March 25, 2020
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Governors including Maine’s Janet Mills reject Trump’s virus timeline

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Gov. Janet Mills speaks during a news conference at the State House on March 12. Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is at right.

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AUSTIN, Texas — Governors across the nation on Tuesday rejected President Donald Trump’s new accelerated timeline for reopening the U.S. economy as they continued to impose more restrictions on travel and public life in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The dismissal of Trump’s mid-April timeframe for a national reopening came from Republicans and Democrats including Maine Gov. Janet Mills, from leaders struggling to manage hot spots of the outbreak and those still bracing for the worst.

In Maryland, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, the head of the National Governors Association, expressed bewilderment at the White House, calling the messaging confusing and running on a schedule made of some “imaginary clock.”

The governors’ reaction revealed a striking disconnect between Trump and the state leaders closer to the front lines of a crisis that threatens to overwhelm U.S. hospitals and claim thousands of lives. In most cases, it’s state leaders — not the federal government — who are responsible for both imposing and lifting the stay-at-home orders and other restrictions intended to stop the contagion.

[Read our full coronavirus coverage here]

Trump’s optimism appears to reflect his desire to limit the economic damage from the outbreak. The president is eager to get the U.S. back to work as the crisis takes a political toll and the economy, which had been the cornerstone of his re-election bid, begins to wobble.

But governors suggested that view had little connection to the reality they’re facing. California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said he and Trump are “clearly operating under a different set of assumptions.” Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, where the infection rate was doubling every three days, said “job one has to be to save lives.”

Mills, a Democrat, followed several other states on Tuesday by ordering the closure of nonessential businesses in Maine. She dismissed Trump at a news conference in Augusta after being asked by a reporter about his desire to open the economy quickly.

“Whatever he says off the cuff does not rise to the level of an order or a forecast or a prediction of substantive value,” she said.

As soon as next week, Trump wants to take another look at recommendations about business closures and self-isolation, and said Tuesday the country could reopened by Easter Sunday — less than a month away. “Our people want to return to work,” Trump tweeted.

Even some of Trump’s usual allies are continuing move ahead with tighter controls on travel, commerce and mobility, despite the president’s words. In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has endorsed stay-at-home orders that continued to spread through the biggest cities.

The U.S. is now more than a week into an unprecedented effort to encourage all Americans to drastically scale back their public activities. The orders closing schools, restaurants and businesses have largely come from a patchwork of local and state governments — with areas hit hardest imposing the most restrictions, while other communities are still weighing tighter rules. That means the White House is eyeing ways to ease the advisories while some areas are still ramping up their responses.

[Interactive map: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in each state]

Among the few statehouse leaders to publicly endorse Trump’s view was Texas’ lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, 69, who on Monday suggested that people his age and older can “take care of ourselves” as the nation gets back to work. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people over 65 are at higher risk for the disease.

Friction between Trump and the governors has been steady throughout the crisis. The president said last week that states should be doing more to obtain critically needed supplies and while insisting that the federal government was not a shipping clerk. States, meanwhile, have been pressing the government to help procure necessary protective and breathing equipment.

BDN writer Michael Shepherd and Associated Press writer Stephen Groves contributed to this report.

Watch: What you need to know about handwashing during coronavirus

 


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