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Democratic governors ask White House for help calling off protesters

Several states preparing to reopen their economies
Stay-at-home order protests continue as states ease coronavirus guidelines 04:53

Facing political pressure to ease stay-at-home restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Democratic governors asked the White House on Monday for help encouraging Americans to adhere to these local guidelines. 

The request came amid mixed signals from President Trump over who is ultimately responsible for determining when Americans can resume normal activities. Over the past week, Mr. Trump has insisted that only he could order an economic restart, but later told governors "you're gonna call your own shots" on when and how to reopen and released federal guidelines on how to do so. But over the weekend, he tweeted support for small bands of conservative protesters that rallied in the state capitals of Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia and elsewhere against restrictions put in place by Democratic governors.

Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday he would be speaking to all 50 governors on Monday to discuss testing and reopening the states.   

On the call, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said her state is using the White House guidelines to implement "what we think are going to be best practices here in Michigan for the cautious, thoughtful, slow reopening of certain sectors of our economy."

"As we do that, any help on the national level to reiterate the importance of stay-at-home orders would be helpful," Whitmer told Pence, according to audio of the meeting obtained by CBS News.

Whitmer acknowledged last week's protests at the State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan, against her stay-at-home orders. "I know that people are getting frustrated, certainly, and want to do the wonderful American tradition of dissent and demonstration, but it's just so dangerous to do that," she said. "And we're worried about spikes when people return to different parts of the states that maybe don't have the same kind of infection rates that we're seeing in southeast Michigan. This is a phenomenon that's nationwide and to the extent there might be some help on the national level to reiterate the importance of staying home until we get these numbers down and we can start to reopen would be incredibly appreciated."

"Governor, we will certainly do that," Pence told Whitmer, adding later: "We will make a point today and going forward to continue to reiterate that."

Whitmer has earned national attention for her state's response to the pandemic. Michigan is the nation's 10th largest state but currently has the third-highest number deaths among the 50 states. Conservative activists and Republican legislators have criticized her stay-at-home orders as too restrictive because they currently bar residents from traveling to their vacation homes and even ban the sale of certain gardening equipment.

Mr. Trump has especially targeted the governor, who recent polls show remains popular in her state. She is also mentioned as a potential running mate for former vice president Joe Biden as he is expected to begin the formal search for a vice presidential candidate in the coming days. 

Later in the call, North Carolina Democratic Governor Roy Cooper also asked Pence that the White House remind Americans how important it is to meet the minimum criteria laid out in the federal guidelines to reopen state economies.

"One thing that that I would ask, is that the administration do everything that it can to let the public know that it is important for us to reach these minimum thresholds, before we began easing restrictions," Cooper said.

"The administration's encouragement of, say, 'Hey guys, particularly you have a lot of groups who are trying to get us to open up right now' – not encouraging those groups, but to follow the federal guidelines that you have given," Cooper told Pence. "And to do that responsibly."

Pence reiterated that governors will ultimately decide when to reopen their economies.

The overwhelming majority of the call focused on ensuring that state governments have the equipment needed to test for potential infection.

Pence was joined on the call by Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, FEMA administrator Pete Gaynor and other federal officials who discussed in notably granular detail the supply and distribution of testing equipment and the difficulty in developing some of the materials.

Pence also warned that there are still concerns about a larger outbreak of the virus.

"We are continuing to track very closely Chicago, Boston metro, Philadelphia metro and we're moving resources and personnel into those areas," Pence said.

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