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Massachusetts joins multistate pact on post-coronavirus economy

Gov Charlie Baker spoke during a media availability at the State House to discuss updates relating to COVID-19 on Monday in Boston, MA.
Gov Charlie Baker spoke during a media availability at the State House to discuss updates relating to COVID-19 on Monday in Boston, MA.Nancy Lane

Democratic governors in the Northeast — as well as Republican Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker — and along the West Coast on Monday announced separate state compacts to coordinate one of their biggest challenges in the weeks to come: How to begin reopening society amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The governors made separate announcements just hours after President Trump said on Twitter that it was his decision to decide when to “open up the states."

The governors did not announce specific plans on how to scale back stay-at-home orders or reopen businesses. Instead, both groups said they would coordinate those decisions while first considering the health of residents. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said it could take time.

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“The house is still on fire," he said during a conference call with reporters. “We still have to put the fire out, but we do have to begin putting in the pieces of the puzzle that we know we’re going to need ... to make sure this doesn’t reignite.”

His state is in a coalition with its Northeastern neighbors — Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. The coalition announced early Monday evening that Massachusetts had also joined the group.

“The Baker-Polito Administration looks forward to participating in discussions with neighboring states and experts regarding the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Baker said in a statement distributed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office. “Massachusetts also remains focused on efforts to expand testing, ensure hospital capacity and provide the necessary PPE to those on the front lines to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

An aide to Baker confirmed that the Republican governor will participate in the compact along with Democratic governors from Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York had earlier announced that Baker would be part of the compact.

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As in other states participating in the deal, Baker's office maintained that it's too early to consider easing restrictions. But the governors said they want to be prepared to move ahead once the disease threat recedes.

Economic and health experts from each state will be part of a group working on a framework for the states’ reopening plans, Cuomo said.

At a Boston press conference earlier on Monday, when Baker was asked about Trump’s comments on reopening the country, the governor replied, “I don’t think anyone thinks you can just flip the switch at any point in the not-so-distant future, given the surge is not the same everywhere.”

The governors of California, Oregon and Washington announced similar plans Monday. While each state is building its own plan, the three West Coast states have agreed to a framework saying they will work together, put their residents’ health first and let science guide their decisions.

“COVID-19 has preyed upon our interconnectedness,” the three governors said in a statement. “In the coming weeks, the West Coast will flip the script on COVID-19 — with our states acting in close coordination and collaboration to ensure the virus can never spread wildly in our communities.”

Some of the Northeastern states coordinated last month as they ordered businesses to shut down. States also have been sharing medical supplies.

Republican President Donald Trump responded to the governors' plans by saying he is the ultimate decision-maker.

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Some 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...it is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons,” Trump tweeted Monday.

Trump and his administration are working closely with governors, he said.

It was not immediately clear whether the compacts announced by the Northeast and West Coast states were in reaction to the president’s earlier message or had been in the works beforehand.

Jaclyn Reiss of the Globe staff contributed to this report.