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After weeks of saying that the decision on when to open up the states would be made by individual state governors, United States President Donald Trump is now walking back his words.
On Tuesday, April 14, he stated in a news briefing: “When somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total… The governors know that.” This is despite constitutional limitations on federal powers.
The president’s timeline coupled with the current state of the outbreak, which is now killing over 1,000 people per day in the country, has evoked panic among governors who consider the timeline to be too ambitious and dangerous. Trump’s lockdown regulations are set to expire at the end of the month.
New York State
In response, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo hit back, saying: “The president doesn’t have total authority. We have a constitution. We don’t have a king. We have an elected president.”
New York is so far the worst-hit state within the US, with 203,123 cases and a total death toll of 10,834 deaths. The official death toll has also soared after health officials changed their counting methods to also include those who likely had contracted COVID-19, but died without having been tested. This came after officials had acknowledged they were failing to account for those who were dying at home.
Cuomo also stated that if Trump were to order him to open the state before he thought it to be ready, he would refuse – which would ultimately lead to a “constitutional challenge between the state and the federal government.”
The president’s claim of authority is also a concern shared among other governors and officials. Top US infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told AP News on Tuesday, April 14 that the country is “not there yet,” for the type of testing and movement tracking needed to reopen the economy.
Republican Governor of Arkansas Asa Hutchinson said that while he “welcomes national guidance and assistance,” he would do “what is needed in the best interest of Arkansans.” The governor of Connecticut, Democrat Ned Lamont has also stated that he would not open his state before May 20.
Meanwhile, former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden said that he’s “not running for office to be King of America” and stated that he respected both the Democratic and Republican governors’ efforts, especially under these circumstances.
Trump’s tone, however, seemingly changed later on Tuesday after meeting with individuals who had recovered from COVID-19. Trump stated that he was “going to be making a decision pretty quickly,” and that it would be “done in conjunction with governors.”