Coronavirus Live Updates: Governors Push Back at Trump Over Authority to Reopen

Governors push back on Trump’s claim that he “calls the shots.”

Governors responded scornfully Tuesday to President Trump’s insistence — widely challenged by legal scholars — that he has the authority to direct the reopening of the American economy by himself.

“We don’t have a king; we have a president,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said Tuesday on NBC’s “Today.” In a separate appearance on MSNBC, he warned that if Mr. Trump tried to force an economic reopening on the states, it could lead to “a constitutional crisis like you haven’t seen in decades, where states tell the federal government, ‘We’re not going to follow your order.’”

One of Mr. Cuomo’s partners in the coordinated effort to reopen the Northeast, Gov. Ned Lamont, Democrat of Connecticut, told CNN that “verbal hand grenades” from Mr. Trump should not “distract from a lot of other good work that’s going on.”

And Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican who is the chairman of the National Governors Association, pushed back after Mr. Trump opined on Twitter that the decision to reopen states rested with him, and not with governors.

“It’s not my understanding of the Constitution,” Mr. Hogan said in an interview Monday on CNN, taking pains to praise the cooperation of the federal government while making it clear that he believes the ultimate authority will lie with the states and their governors.

“Governors made decisions to take various actions in their states, based on what they thought was right for their state, based on the facts on the ground, talking with doctors and scientists,” Mr. Hogan said in the interview. “And I think individual governors who made those decisions will have the ultimate decision about what to do with their states.”

The governors have been reacting to Mr. Trump’s signals in recent days — which culminated in an extraordinary briefing at the White House on Monday evening — that he alone had the ultimate power to make the decision of when to ease the stay-at-home orders and other restrictions that governors across the country enacted to slow the spread of the virus. In the White House briefing Mr. Trump claimed that “numerous provisions” in the Constitution, which he did not name, gave him the authority to override the states if they wanted to remain closed. Legal experts say presidents have no such power. “The president of the United States calls the shots,” Mr. Trump said. “They can’t do anything without the approval of the president of the United States.”

His position — a reversal of his earlier arguments that states were largely in charge of fighting the pandemic — raised profound constitutional questions about presidential power and set him once again on a potential collision course with the states.

And after groups of governors on the East and West Coasts announced Monday that they planned to work together in regional groups to decided when and how to reopen business, Mr. Trump compared them in a Twitter post to mutineers who took over a ship from a captain they believed was abusing his crew.

Although Mr. Cuomo excoriated Mr. Trump in interview after interview on Tuesday, he adopted a more conciliatory tone by late morning, when he held a news conference in Albany.

“I am not going to fight with him,” Mr. Cuomo said of the president, adding that, “This is no time for any division between the federal government and the state government.” He allowed, though, that he believed Mr. Trump was “clearly spoiling for a fight on this issue.”

Beyond Democratic governors and legal scholars, some of Mr. Trump’s Republican allies have also questioned the president’s sweeping claim of executive power. Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming and a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, posted the text of the Tenth Amendment on Twitter.

The International Monetary Fund issued a stark warning about economic damage from the coronavirus, saying on Tuesday that the global economy faces its worst downturn since the Great Depression as shuttered factories, quarantines and national lockdowns cause economic output around the world to collapse.

The grim forecast underscored the magnitude of the economic shock that the pandemic has inflicted on both advanced and developing economies and the daunting task that policymakers face in containing the fallout. With countries already hoarding medical supplies and international travel curtailed, the I.M.F. warned that the crisis threatens to reverse decades of gains from globalization.

In its World Economic Outlook, the I.M.F. projected that the global economy will contract by 3 percent in 2020, an extraordinary reversal from earlier this year, when the fund forecast that the world economy would outpace 2019 and grow by 3.3 percent.

This year’s fall in output would be far more severe than the last recession, when the world economy contracted by less than 1 percent between 2008 and 2009. A 3 percent decline in global output would be the worst since the Great Depression, the I.M.F. said.

The economic damage in the United States is expected to be severe, the I.M.F. said, with the American economy projected to shrink by about 6 percent in 2020. The global group cast doubt about the prospect of a “V” shaped recovery in the United States, suggesting that a sharp rise in unemployment and disruptions to supply chains will keep the economy below its pre-virus trend next year.

That trend can be seen in trade data, where slowing economic activity has caused global commerce to plummet. Tracking published by S & P Global Panjiva on Tuesday showed global shipments of goods into the United States fell by 10.1 percent in March, the fewest number of monthly shipments since 2016. Consumer goods have been hit particularly hard, with shipments of furniture, apparel, steel and electronics falling by more than 15 percent last month compared with one year ago.

Other analyses offer a similarly bleak picture. Moody’s said it expects unemployment to peak between 9 percent and 16 percent in the second quarter. For comparison, the unemployment rate peaked at 10 percent during the Great Recession. While the fiscal stimulus and emergency measures being rolled out across the United States are expected to ease the pain, Moody’s expects some companies, particularly smaller ones, to fail

“These measures are unlikely to prevent irreversible credit deterioration and, in many cases, outright default for smaller, weaker companies with speculative-grade ratings.”

In 2020, the I.M.F. projects that the United States economy will contract by 5.9 percent. In the Euro area, it will shrink by 7.5 percent, led by steep declines in Italy and Spain.

Emerging markets and developing economies will not be spared, but in some cases they fare better. In China, where the virus originated and where draconian measures were imposed to combat it, growth is forecast to slow to a rate of 1.2 percent this year. Growth in India is expected to slow to 1.9 percent.

The fund calls for governments to invest in supporting their health care systems and ensuring that workers maintain ties to their jobs during lockdowns so that economic activity can resume when the virus recedes.

“This is a crisis like no other, and there is substantial uncertainty about its impact on people’s lives and livelihoods,” Ms. Gopinath said.

Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, said the economic damage is not likely to be erased quickly, particularly if people continue to be worried about contracting the virus.

“We know after the Great Depression people carried the scars of that experience with them for many, many years,” Mr. Kashkari said in an interview on the TODAY show, noting that in the bounce-back people will need to feel comfortable going out again. “I think the longer that this goes on, the more people who are affected by it, the longer that recovery is going to be.”

New York’s death toll climbed by 778 on Monday, Mr. Cuomo said Tuesday, ending a brief run of declines.

Monday’s deaths pushed the state’s fatality count to 10,834, the highest in the nation. And although New York’s daily toll was higher than others in recent days — 758 people died on Saturday, and there were 671 more deaths on Sunday — Mr. Cuomo said late Tuesday morning that the count was “basically flat at a devastating level of pain and grief.”

Hospitals are still admitting many patients, including 1,649 on Monday, with the virus. And in neighboring New Jersey, the authorities reported 365 deaths, the state’s largest one-day toll since the outbreak began.

Officials like Mr. Cuomo, encouraged by data suggesting a flattening curve, have begun to edge toward setting a strategy for reopening New York, partnering with other states in the Northeast, including New Jersey, to create a coordinated strategy. But Mr. Cuomo has emphasized that the reopening was dependent on New Yorkers continuing to observe the restrictions that were imposed weeks ago.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had warned for weeks that a shuttered New York City’s return to normal depended on increasing its capacity to test for the virus, announced that the city would have a regular supply of about 400,000 test kits per month.

Starting next Monday, the city will buy 50,000 test kits a week from a company in Indiana. And in May, manufacturers and labs in New York City will begin supplying another 50,000 kits per week.

“For the first time, we’re going to have a truly reliable major supply of testing,” Mr. de Blasio said.

The mayor also released the latest statistics on three indicators that he has said will have to trend consistently downward for New York City to reopen.

Only one of those indicators, the number of suspected patients admitted to city hospitals, had declined from Saturday to Sunday, the most recent data available on Tuesday.

The other two — the number of intensive-care unit admissions of suspected virus patients at the city’s public hospitals, and the percentage of people testing positive — had both risen slightly.

U.S. officials and executives wrestle with issues over buying medical equipment or taking donations from China.

Shipments have run into unexpected delays as Chinese officials impose new regulations in response to complaints of low-quality products. And some American officials remain reluctant to accept gifts of gear because they fear giving the Chinese Communist Party a propaganda win.

The two superpowers are vying to project global leadership roles during the crisis, despite deep failures in how senior officials in both nations responded to outbreaks. At the moment, Chinese officials have the power to make it easy or difficult for vital supplies to flow to the United States and other nations. The two sides must work closely to orchestrate the shipments, even as American officials harbor deep suspicions over China’s “donation diplomacy,” a global effort by Beijing involving planeloads of medical gear and delegations of health experts.

The complications could bolster the arguments of some Trump administration officials that American companies should move their supply chains out of China.

Chinese regulators, embarrassed by reports of shoddy medical equipment sent to Europe, imposed a new rule on Friday mandating that customs officers inspect every shipment of masks, ventilators and other medical gear before they leave the country. That was the latest in a series of regulatory actions that had begun to hinder shipments. One American businessman said a new list of items to be inspected was so broad that it even included cotton balls. American officials said that after hearing complaints from U.S. companies, they have had to scramble to deal with the delays on a case-by-case basis.

Abortion clinics in Tennessee and Louisiana filed lawsuits in federal courts on Tuesday to stop abortion bans related to the coronavirus. The moves bring the total of states where legal fights are unfolding to seven; the five others are Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Ohio and Oklahoma.

The filings came a day after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed itself on medication abortion in Texas — a surprise move that means this early-stage abortion involving two pills is n
ow allowed.

The appeals court’s reversal allows, for now, many more women access to abortion, rights groups say, but does nothing to lift the ban on most surgical abortions.

“Medication abortion is only available through 10 weeks in Texas,” said Julie Rikelman, senior litigation director at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “That’s still very difficult for many people because abortions are only available at that point in pregnancy in a few places in Texas.”

A spokeswoman for the Texas attorney general’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Joe Pojman, who heads the Texas Alliance for Life, said in an email: “We are disappointed by the court’s latest action. The latest order fails to recognize the danger that abortion providers pose to the public by refusing to comply with the Governor’s executive order in the same way that other providers of nonemergency surgeries and procedures have done.”

The fight over abortion rights, rather than receding into the background during the pandemic, has intensified as several states banned the procedure in recent weeks as part of emergency measures to fight the virus.

In seven states, state authorities have included abortion as a nonessential medical procedure, arguing that postponement is necessary to preserve medical and protective equipment. Abortion rights groups say the pandemic is being used as a pretense to restrict abortion, and have sued five of the states to stop them.

Out of the states trying to limit abortion, only Texas had been successful; the others have been blocked by judges, but that could change. Especially in Texas, several weeks of legal back-and-forth have caused confusion for patients and their doctors.

Across the country, the nation’s youngest offenders who are stuck in detention centers are at a higher risk of contracting the virus simply because of where they are. Close quarters, shared spaces and contact with staff members who rotate in daily make it impossible to follow guidelines to limit contact with other people and wash hands regularly in an effort to avoid contracting the deadly virus.

Lawyers in three states — Maryland, Pennsylvania and Texas — are asking for a mass release of young offenders with underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus as well as juveniles incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. Maryland and Pennsylvania have already denied some requests, while public defenders in Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, are expected to argue for the release of their juvenile clients in the coming days.

Some states, including New Jersey, New York and California, were quick to release adult nonviolent offenders and older people, but have yet to do this for incarcerated youth.

For weeks, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, has hewed closely to the message coming from Mr. Trump, one that most recently was about planning to get the economy moving and return to some semblance of normalcy.

So when Florida’s surgeon general, Dr. Scott A. Rivkees, suggested on Monday that there would be no real return to normal until there was a vaccine — something experts think is at least a year away — he was most definitely not on message.

Dr. Rivkees had no sooner told reporters that Floridians would have to get used to wearing face masks and practicing social distancing measures than he was pulled away from the news conference by the governor’s spokeswoman. A video of the moment was shared widely on social media.

“As long as we’re going to have Covid in the environment, and this is a tough virus, we’re going to have to practice these measures so that we are all protected,” Dr. Rivkees said. “Until we get a vaccine, which is a while off, this is going to be our new normal and we need to adapt and protect ourselves.”

In an email to the Miami Herald, a spokesman for Dr. Rivkees did not say whether the governor agreed with the surgeon general’s conclusion.

“Social distancing and improved hygiene have proven to be effective in impeding the spread of Covid-19,” the spokesman, Alberto Moscoso, wrote. “Until a vaccine is available, precautions will need to be taken to ensure public health.”

For close to 70 years, Georgia has had a broad ban on people donning face masks in public — a policy, a court once noted, written to combat racist violence and “to safeguard the people of Georgia from terrorization by masked vigilantes.”

But with the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging people to wear cloth facial coverings in public, the law is now on hold. Gov. Brian Kemp, who signed an executive order on Monday to suspend the law for people wearing masks to prevent the spread of the virus, said he wanted to ensure “people can follow the guidance of public health officials without fear of prosecution.”

The law, which the State Supreme Court upheld in 1990 after a challenge by a member of the Ku Klux Klan, ordinarily makes it a misdemeanor in many instances if someone wears “a mask, hood or device by which any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer.” The measure has a list of exceptions, including permitting masks for theatrical or Halloween costumes, but there is no public health exemption.

Alarmed by an episode elsewhere that led to two men being ejected from a store for wearing masks because of the pandemic, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta had already ordered police officers in Georgia’s capital not to arrest or cite people who wore facial coverings for health reasons.

State Senator Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of Georgia’s Democratic Party, had also warned Mr. Kemp that keeping the law on the books as usual could lead to greater racial profiling of black people by the authorities.

Some New York police officers face new assignments during the pandemic.

South Dakota is seeing a significant outbreak, with hundreds of workers at the city’s Smithfield pork processing plant falling ill, leading the company to shut down its plant in Sioux Falls.

Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, has resisted issuing a stay-at-home order for the state, saying that it is not necessary. The mayor of Sioux Falls, Paul TenHaken, said he has asked the governor to issue an order for the Sioux Falls area and will ask residents himself to stay home if Ms. Noem fails to act.

Smithfield Foods said Sunday that it would close its Sioux Falls processing plant after 230 workers contracted the virus, becoming one of the latest companies to announce a shutdown. The plant produces more than 5 percent of the nation’s pork.

The nation’s food supply chain is showing signs of strain, as increasing numbers of workers are falling ill in meat processing plants, warehouses and grocery stores.

The spread of the virus through the food and grocery industry is expected to disrupt the production and distribution of products like pork, industry executives, labor unions and analysts have warned in recent days. The issues follow nearly a month of stockpiling of food and other essentials by panicked shoppers that have tested supply networks to the limits.

Industry leaders and observers acknowledge that the shortages could increase, but they insist it is more of an inconvenience than a major pro
blem. People will have enough to eat; they just may not have the usual variety.

The food supply remains robust, they say, with hundreds of millions of pounds of meat in cold storage. There is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted through food or its packaging, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Still, the illnesses have the potential to cause shortages lasting weeks for a few products, creating further anxiety for Americans already shaken by how difficult it can be to find high-demand staples like flour and eggs.

“The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply,” Smithfield’s chief executive, Kenneth M. Sullivan, said in a statement.

Reporting was contributed by Alan Blinder, Eileen Sullivan, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, Jim Dwyer, Marc Santora, Annie Correal, Michael Corkery, Peter Eavis, Jan Hoffman, Alan Rappeport, Miriam Jordan, Matt Phillips, Kate Taylor, Davie Yaffe-Bellany, Erica L. Green, Julie Bosman, Sabrina Tavernise, Edward Wong and Paul Mozur.

Source Article