As coronavirus cases rise in U.S. hot spots, governors tell Trump it's too soon to reopen America

by Reuters
Sunday, 19 April 2020 16:38 GMT

(Adds comments from Governor Cuomo in New York and Governor Inslee in Washington state)

By Gabriella Borter and Doina Chiacu

April 19 (Reuters) - Governors in U.S. states hardest hit by the novel coronavirus sparred with President Donald Trump over his claims they have enough tests and should quickly reopen their economies as more protests are planned over the extension of stay-at-home orders.

New York continued to see hospitalizations decline to 16,000 from a high of 18,000, and the number of patients being kept alive by ventilators also fell. There were 507 new deaths, down from a high of more than 700 a day.

"If the data holds and if this trend holds, we are past the high point and all indications at this point are that we are on a descent. Whether or not the descent continues depends on what we do," Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a daily briefing.

Cuomo, along with other governors, are clamoring for more testing.

"The administration I think is trying to ramp up testing, they are doing some things with respect to private labs," said Republican Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland during a CNN interview. "But to try to push this off, to say the governors have plenty of testing and they should just get to work on testing, somehow we aren't doing our jobs, is just absolutely false."

Democratic Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia told CNN that claims by Trump and Vice President Mike Pence that states have plenty of tests were "just delusional."

The region of Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. is still seeing increasing cases even as the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, New York, has started to see declines. Boston and Chicago are also emerging hot spots with recent surges in cases and deaths.

Several states, including Ohio, Texas and Florida, have said they aim to reopen parts of their economies, perhaps by May 1 or even sooner, but appeared to be staying cautious.

Trump's guidelines to reopen the economy recommend a state record 14 days of declining case numbers before gradually lifting restrictions. Yet the Republican president appeared to encourage protesters who want the measures removed sooner with a series of Twitter posts on Friday calling for them to "LIBERATE" Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia, all run by Democratic governors.

Governor Jay Inslee of Washington redoubled his attacks on Trump's call to "liberate" states, saying the president was encouraging people to violate state laws on self-isolating.

"These orders actually are the law of these states," he said. "To have an American president encourage people to violate the law, I can't remember any time during my time in America where we have seen such a thing."

The United States has by far the world's largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 730,000 infections and over 39,600 deaths.

The governors of Michigan and Ohio on Sunday said they could double or triple their testing capacity if the federal government helped them acquire more swaps and reagents, chemicals needed as part of the testing process.

Demonstrations to demand an end to stay-at-home measures that have pummelled the U.S. economy have erupted in a few spots in Texas, Wisconsin and the capitols of Ohio, Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia. More than 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past month.

Trump had touted a thriving economy as the best case for his re-election in November.

On Saturday, several dozen protesters gathered in the Texas capital of Austin chanting "USA! USA!" and "Let us work!"

In Brookfield, Wisconsin, hundreds of demonstrators cheered as they lined a main road and waved American flags to protest at the extension of that state's "safer at home" order.

The demonstrators mostly flouted the social-distancing rules and did not wear the face masks recommended by public health officials.

U.S. lawmakers are very close to an agreement on approving extra money to help small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic and could seal a deal as early as Sunday, congressional and Trump administration officials said.

An agreement would end a stalemate that has lasted more than a week over Trump's request to add $250 billion to a small-business loan program. Congress established the program last month as part of a $2.3 trillion coronavirus economic relief plan, but it has already run out of money.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Writing by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.