In interviews on morning talk shows, governors and mayors acknowledged the delicate balance between aggressively combating the virus and limiting the economic pain, but they said that public health concerns were their priority.
“We could be pouring gas on the fire, even inadvertently,” Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey, a Democrat, said in an interview with CNN. He said that returning to a semblance of life before the outbreak was crucial but, “It’s not Job No. 1., because right now, the house is on fire and Job No. 1 is to put the fire out.”
Mr. Trump has acknowledged the gravity of the question of when to reopen the country. But the decision is not entirely, or even primarily, his to make. And many governors have expressed wariness about lifting stay-at-home orders prematurely.
“Really, right now, the first thing is saving lives and keeping people safe,” Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We do also have to think about how do we eventually ramp up and get some folks back to work. But you can’t just pick a date and flip a switch. I don’t think it’s going to be that simple.”
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN that reopening the country would not be an “all or none” proposition. He said that governors would need to manage a “rolling re-entry,” guided by testing results and local risk levels.
“I think it could probably start, at least in some ways, maybe next month,” he said on the network’s “State of the Union” program. But he added, “Don’t hold me to it.”
Policymakers should be thinking about the coronavirus as an 18-month problem, said Neel Kashkari, a Federal Reserve president who helped lead the response to the 2008 financial crisis as a Treasury Department official. “This could be a long, hard road that we have ahead of us,” he said.