Reopening U.S. economy too early will cost lives, New York’s Cuomo warns

The angry din of car horns echoed through Virginia’s capital city Wednesday as the debate about America’s path to recovery pitted impatient U.S. workers and business owners against governors and health experts who fear a crippling resurgence of COVID-19.

A procession of vehicles paraded past the state capitol in Richmond in hopes of convincing Gov. Ralph Northam to lift a stay-at-home order and let people go back to work — a carbon copy of protests in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Tennessee and Maryland, among others.

The protests have been widely linked to the country’s pro-gun lobby and conservative action groups that support Republican President Donald Trump, fuelling doubts about whether they represent a wider impatience in the U.S., particularly since polls have continued to suggest widespread bipartisan support for the restrictions.

But whatever their genesis, the result is the same: there is mounting political pressure on governors and municipal officials — even in hard-hit New York state, where more than 20,000 people have died — to rouse the dormant U.S. economy.

“This is no time to act stupidly. Period. I don’t know how else to say it,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Like Northam in Virginia, Cuomo is a Democrat.

“This is not going to be over any time soon. I know people want out, I get it. I know people want to get back to work. I know people need a paycheque. I know this is unsustainable. I also know more people will die if we are not smart.”

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The contrast of Cuomo’s message with that emanating from other states, particularly Republican-led states in the Deep South, was jarring.

In Georgia, which was reporting nearly 20,000 active cases Wednesday and 836 deaths, Gov. Brian Kemp expects to have many businesses — including hair salons and tattoo parlours, where physical distancing is physically impossible — back up and running as early as Friday. In Tennessee, the plan is for shops and services to reopen next week.

That, however, isn’t going to translate into any sort of phased-in changes to Canada’s border agreement with the U.S. any time soon, he added.

“We will continue to co-ordinate with the United States, but the national measures will apply right across the Canada-U.S. border, regardless of provinces or jurisdictions.”

As the situation in the U.S. continues to evolve, Canada and its leaders, themselves not immune to the influence of political pressure, could eventually end up in an awkward position, Mitchell said.

“Canada definitely has to think long and hard about the health and economic impacts of opening up too soon and following its larger cousin to the south,” he said.

“Canada is still critically intertwined with the U.S. economy, so I just don’t think it can ride off into the sunset and be self-sufficient any time soon. Nor can we, frankly. But the conversation and decision needs to be informed by domestic health issues and domestic economic issues.”

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