Governors say they'll ease virus restrictions, with an abundance of caution

Kurtis Lee
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis wears a face mask as he answers a question during a recent news conference to update the state's efforts to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.  (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Several U.S. governors on Sunday outlined plans to ease stay-at-home orders in the days and weeks ahead but cautioned constituents that the coronavirus remained a threat in their communities.

"What matters a lot more than the date that the stay-at-home ends is what we do going forward, and how we have an ongoing, sustainable way — psychologically, economically and from the health perspective — to have the social distancing we need,” said Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Polis has announced that, beginning Monday, elective surgeries can be performed and retail businesses with curbside delivery can reopen. Bars, restaurants and gyms must remain shut.

Colorado has seen nearly 13,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and nearly 700 deaths.

Polis said that in the weeks ahead he and his administration would look at data and "adjust in real time."

"We expect that we'll have to adjust the degree of social distancing in real time, meaning we're going to look at those early indicators, the mobility data," Polis said. "We're going to look at disease data. We're going to look at a number of different proxies and, as we need to, adjust it in real time."

On Sunday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, whose order expires on Thursday, also expressed discomfort in talking about specific reopening dates. DeSantis, who was castigated last month by critics for a delayed response to issuing a stay-at-home order, said during a news conference, "We are going to do everything in a smart way.”

“I am less concerned about the date and more concerned about getting it right," he said.

Florida has seen 31,000 confirmed cases of the virus and at least 1,000 deaths.

Nationwide, the death toll from COVID-19 topped 54,500 in the United States on Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported U.S. death toll is the highest globally.

Stay-at-home orders in several states — Alabama, Arizona, Florida and Tennessee, to name a few — are set to expire later this week.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined plans at a news conference Sunday for a phased reopening of the economy, noting that any changes will be based on a "regional analysis." Cuomo has signed a pact with governors from six other Northeast states to work collaboratively toward reopening.

"Look at the regional analysis. Make a determination. And then monitor whatever you do," he said of his plan. The state’s stay-at-home order is currently in place until May 15.

New York has been a hotbed of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., with 282,000 cases and nearly 16,600 deaths. Cuomo outlined a plan that could see businesses reopening in phases — starting with construction, then possibly retail establishments.

Speaking to reporters from Albany, Cuomo said that implementing a safe reopening of the economy would require changes at a societal level.

"People don't like change," Cuomo said. "It's hard to make change in your own life, let alone on a societal collective level."

On Sunday, officials announced that all patients had been released from the Comfort, a military hospital ship, which has been docked in New York City harbor since last month. It helped treat roughly 180 coronavirus patients and will depart in the weeks ahead.

In recent days, as the coronavirus death toll continues to climb, states including Georgia have lifted some restrictions, allowing for businesses such as barbershops, gyms, movie theaters and bowling alleys to reopen.

Images of long lines outside businesses have raised concerns among federal officials.

President Trump, who on social media has urged the liberation of some states, has done an apparent about-face in recent days, saying he does not support a swift reopening of businesses and questioning a move by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, to lift stay-at-home orders.

Meanwhile, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, pushed back against comments Trump made in recent days in which the president suggested that injected disinfectants could be studied as a possible cure for the coronavirus.

Hogan said officials in his state received hundreds of calls from constituents asking whether injecting or ingesting disinfectants would be helpful in combating the virus.

"It's always critically important for a leader to put out the facts and to be as open and honest and transparent as possible," Hogan said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "And I think it's critical that the president of the United States, when people are really scared and in the middle of this worldwide pandemic, that in these press conferences that we really get the facts out there. And unfortunately, some of the messaging has not been great."

Trump did not hold a news conference on Saturday or Sunday but continued to assail the media.

"What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions," he tweeted.