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Coronavirus Update: Governors Announce 6-State Working Group To Plan Post-COVID-19 Reopening

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Governors from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Rhode Island announced Monday a new coalition that will work out the timing for reopening the region from the coronavirus-driven shutdown of schools and businesses.

The news did not sit well with President Donald Trump, who said during an evening press conference he will make the final determination.

"When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total, and that's the way it's gonna be," Trump said.

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Trump said he expects that governors will cooperate.

But in no time, the president had triggered a firestorm. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the president is absolutely wrong.

"The president doesn't have total authority. We have a constitution. We don't have a king. We have an elected president. That's what our founding fathers did when they wrote the constitution and the constitution clearly says the powers that are not specifically listed for the federal government are reserve to the states and the balance between federal and state authority was central to the constitution." Cuomo told CNN.

Cuomo went on to say the president did not close the economy. That was done by the states, and so they should be doing the reopening. He also said states don't have the capacity for large-scale testing and that will be key to any reopening plan.

He added if the president puts forward an irresponsible plan that he will oppose it legally, CBS2's Dick Brennan reported.

Roughly one month after the first positive cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the United States, the governors announced each state will have a public health official and an economic development official join a working group forming a coordinated regional plan.

The six states currently account for half the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country and roughly two-thirds of those who have died from coronavirus-related illness.

According to Cuomo, the working group is expected to release a final plan "within weeks" that could coordinate with the federal government on mandating gloves and covering, testing requirements, and other details.

"Those officials and the chief of staff of the governor of each state will form a working group that will start work immediately on designing a reopening plan taking into consideration the public health concerns and issues and the economic reactivation issues and concerns," said Cuomo. "Study the data. Study the research. Study the experience of other countries and give us guidelines and parameters to go forward. Again, we anticipate different facts, different circumstances with different states, different parts of states. But let's be smart, and let's be cooperative, and let's learn from one another."

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

"Let there be no doubt about it and we're not out of the woods yet and reopening ourselves back up will be equally challenging beyond the shadow of a doubt," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said. "The house is still on fire. We still have to put the fire out, but we do have to begin putting in the pieces of the puzzle that we know we're going to need ... to make sure this doesn't reignite."

WATCH: Coronavirus Update: Tri-State Area Joins 6-State Coalition To Plan Reopening Region

"The reality is this virus doesn't care about state borders, and our response shouldn't either," Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said.

MORE: Cuomo Says 'Worst Is Over' As New York Hits 10,000 COVID-19 Deaths

Earlier in the day, it was announced that the rate of hospitalizations in New York State -- the hardest state hit by the outbreak -- due to coronavirus has leveled out, but the state's death toll has surpassed 10,000.

"It appears we have a plateau," said Cuomo said earlier on Monday, cautiously offering a personal opinion that "the worst is over."


Cuomo said reopening the economy will require a delicate balance between keeping people healthy and recalibrating what jobs are essential, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported.

"Do it carefully, do it slowly, and do it intelligently, and while you're opening that valve, watch the meter. What's the meter? The meter is the infection rate," Cuomo said.

Getting the transportation system back to normal will take a while because the MTA has been hard hit by COVID-19.

"I have thousands and thousands of people who are in quarantine. I have thousands of people who have tested positive. I have more than 50 colleagues who have died, so we're not running. We're not going back to normal service right now. I would love for the economy to get going again. I would love a return to normalcy, but it's not where we are right now," Acting Transit Authority President Sarah Feinberg said.

Kramer also spoke to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio about restarting the economy.

"There's a big fear that if you don't get businesses open soon you may see widespread business failure in New York City. How do you get to the point where you can do it so you have both healthy New Yorkers and a healthy economy?" Kramer asked.

"To save those businesses, we actually have to get the healthcare part of this right, Marcia, and I don't think that means forever. I think it means doing it right for weeks, or a few months," de Blasio said.

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