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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.

Governors who choose to roll the dice would likely be more inclined to do so if they knew that the recent protests were an organic expression of public sentiment, said Matthew Mitchell, a professor of international business and strategy at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

But even if they’re inauthentic, they still provide a measure of handy political cover, Mitchell said.

“In some ways, it definitely gives coverage to those governors that have the predisposition to open their economies more quickly,” he said. “That’s the chess match these competing narratives are playing out.”

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