By Doina Chiacu
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo met President Donald Trump on Wednesday to press for investment in the nation’s roads, bridges and railways as U.S. states begin to reopen after the coronavirus outbreak left the economy in tatters.
Cuomo’s visit to Washington comes as his hard-hit state begins to see drops in rates of hospitalizations and deaths, while other states relax lockdowns and partygoers flout precautions aimed at curtailing the novel coronavirus.
Twenty U.S. states reported an increase in new cases for the week ended Sunday as the death toll nears 100,000, according to a Reuters analysis. Florida reported a nearly 6% increase, while New York registered a double-digit decline.
Cuomo, a Democrat whose state has been the worst hit by the outbreak, arrived for the meeting at the White House wearing a blue surgical mask. Trump has declined to wear a mask in public even though his own health experts have recommended it.
Businesses across the country are opening doors after shuttering in mid-March as states and local governments took drastic measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, almost bringing the country to a halt. The economy contracted at its steepest pace since the Great Recession in the first quarter and lost at least 21.4 million jobs in March and April.
With a focus on infrastructure as a way to revive the economy, Cuomo, a Democrat, will touch on a topic close to Trump. The Republican president has long embraced the idea of updating the country’s infrastructure.
Cuomo, who has sparred with Trump over the federal government’s pandemic response, wants to revive the economy by undertaking major transport and other projects. He told reporters on Tuesday he would discuss a federal role in investments to modernize the nation’s bridges, roads and rail systems.
“This is one of the things I want to talk to the president about. … You want to reopen the economy. Let’s do something creative, let’s do it fast, let’s put Americans back to work,” Cuomo said.
Trump has said he believed infrastructure spending could help the economy recover from the pandemic, embracing a massive $2 trillion plan at the end of March. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last month said that legislation was separate from coronavirus spending and would have to wait.
States have sought more help from the federal government to get through the crisis. Democrats who control the House of Representatives passed legislation on May 15 that would provide nearly $1 trillion for state and local governments, but the bill was rejected by Trump and the Senate’s Republican leaders.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, Americans flocked to beaches and lakes in large groups even as U.S. health experts warned that reopening too quickly could trigger outbreaks of COVID-19.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top infectious disease expert on the White House coronavirus task force, told CNN on Wednesday the weekend scenes of unmasked revelers gathering in large groups were disturbing.
He said a second wave of infections was not inevitable if people adhered to recommendations to minimize exposure to the virus.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Alexandra Alper; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Andrea Ricci and Jonathan Oatis)
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