A person wearing a protective face mask crosses Benjamin Franklin Parkway in view of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, Monday, April 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) Pennsylvania joins other states to consider reopening society
A person wearing a protective face mask crosses Benjamin Franklin Parkway in view of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, Monday, April 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

“You’re not going to have a healthy economy if you have an unhealthy population,” Wolf said. You’ve got to get people healthy first and then you can reopen the economy.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is joining five other governors in the Northeast in developing a cooperative plan to reopen the region’s economy once the most severe dangers of the coronavirus have passed. 

Wolf joins Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York, Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Ned Lamont of Connecticut, John Carney Jr. of Delaware, and Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, all of whom are Democrats. The six governors held a conference call with reporters present on Monday in which they agreed to name public health, economic development, and executive leaders in their states to form a working group to “immediately” develop the regional proposal.

The governors agreed that working together was critical, given the interconnectedness of the region, particularly among workers in the tri-state region of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. 

“We all know that we can do anything better when we work together in this region,” Wolf said. He said the governors need a “specific and smart plan” to reopen the region and that the group will get to work immediately.

The new Northeastern coalition comes as President Trump continues to incorrectly claim that he is the only one who gets to decide when to reopen the economy. “Some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Monday morning, adding: “It is the decision of the President.”

Governors and local leaders—who have instituted mandatory restrictions that have the force of law—have expressed concern that Trump’s plan to restore normalcy will cost lives and extend the duration of the outbreak.

Under the U.S. Constitution, public health and safety is primarily the domain of state and local officials, and it was not clear what, if any, authorities Trump could use to overrule their decisions. Still, Trump has pushed to reopen the economy, which has plummeted as businesses have shuttered, leaving millions of people out of work and struggling to obtain basic commodities.

When asked about Trump’s statements on Monday, Wolf gently disagreed with the president’s claim that it was primarily his decision. “Seeing as how we had the responsibility for closing the state down, I think we probably have the primary responsibility for opening it up,” Wolf said. 

He also acknowledged that while everyone was concerned about the economic toll, rushing to reopen the economy before it was safe to do so would be a mistake.

RELATED: So Much for States’ Rights. Trump Says He Decides When States End Shutdown.

“You’re not going to have a healthy economy if you have an unhealthy population,” Wolf said. You’ve got to get people healthy first and then you can reopen the economy.”

Gov. Cuomo said there was no timetable, but said that the group would begin discussing the plan on Tuesday to develop a proposal as soon as possible and hoped to begin reopening efforts in a matter of “weeks.”

Pennsylvania has been one of the hardest-hit states in the nation, with more than 24,000 confirmed cases, the fourth highest number in the country. Nearly 600 Pennsylvanians have died from COVID-19 so far. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Health said that while the number of cases continues to grow, the rate of growth is slowing, proving that social distancing efforts in the state are working and must be continued. All 67 counties in Pennsylvania are under a stay-at-home order through at least April 30, and Wolf plans to use that time to craft a plan for what comes next, not just logistically, but also emotionally. 

“As we figure out we’re going to reopen our schools, how we reopen our businesses, our homes, we’re also going to recognize how we’re going to restore the sense of hope that this pandemic has taken away from so many of us,” Wolf said. “We’re going to show the people of the United States how you come out of something devastating in a responsible fashion.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.