Governors, experts await results of reopening states as protests continue

Officials are anxiously awaiting the results from states that have begun to lift coronavirus restrictions while governors who have chosen to not yet reopen their economies are defending their decisions.

A number of states began allowing businesses to reopen over the weekend with more set to lift restrictions in the coming week. At the same time protests against stay-at-home orders continued over the weekend across the country.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), whose state is the second hardest-hit by the virus, warned on Sunday that it was still too early to determine whether New Jersey would be prepared for a reopening by Memorial Day.

“I’ll be the happiest guy in New Jersey if not America if we are,” Murphy said on “Fox News Sunday,” but added, “I think it’s too early to tell.”

On the positive side, Murphy told Fox News’ Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceThe Memo: Media accused of using kid-gloves on Biden Biden town hall draws 3.3 million viewers for CNN Gates says travel ban made COVID-19 worse in US MORE, “compliance was very high in terms of social distancing” in areas such as golf courses and public parks that the state reopened over the weekend.

"That sort of behavior as we flatten the curve… as we push those curves down… that’s the best weapon we’ve got to get the best outcome,” he said.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R), meanwhile, defended the state beginning its reopening process even as a spike in cases led him to pull back from the next stage.

“You have to understand that Mississippi is different than New York and New Jersey,” Reeves said on “Fox News Sunday." “What we have seen is for the last 35-40 days, we’ve been between 200 and 300 cases without a spike. Our hospital system is not stressed, we have less than 100 people in our state on ventilators.”

Host Chris Wallace pressed Reeves on the fact that Mississippi, like virtually all other states, has not yet seen two consecutive weeks of declining positive cases, which White House federal guidelines list as a necessary hurdle to clear before reopening.

“Sometimes the models are just different for different states… we believe that particular gating criteria just doesn’t work in states like ours. We have never had more than 300 cases in any one day with the exception of Friday in that data dump,” Reeves responded.

Tom Inglesby, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said that in states that have begun the reopening process, such as Mississippi, Georgia and Texas, any effects or lack thereof on virus rates may not immediately be evident.

“It’s going to take about two to three weeks for us to begin to see trends that come out of the changes in social distancing,” Inglesby said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “A measure taken this morning, you probably won’t see a change in hospitalization rates or ICU capacity until two or three weeks from now. So that’s the nature of the disease, it’s going to take a little time for things to get into the system.”

“In the coming weeks and months we need to get a much better handle on the number of mild and moderate cases of disease we have. The good news is that many, many people do not get seriously ill with this disease,” he said. “The bad news is we’re not capturing those people in terms of numbers for the country and if we don’t know who they are we can’t break their chains of transmission.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” said the state will begin allowing some manufacturing and construction firms to “very carefully” reopen beginning Monday, allowing more retailers to open later in May while continuing to closely monitor health statistics.

“What I hope is as people see those numbers, if they do go up and if they go up dramatically, that the people of the state will react to that,” he said.

Protests against stay-at-home orders took place in at least 10 states over the weekend. Hundreds of protesters, some of them armed, demonstrated at the Michigan Statehouse on Thursday, eventually crowding inside to demand Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) allow public life to resume.

President Trump tweeted his support for those protesters, calling on Whitmer to “talk to them” and “make a deal.”

Whitmer addressed those protests on Sunday, days after she extended Michigan's state of emergency.

“The fact of the matter is we are in the global pandemic. This is not something we negotiate ourselves out of and is a political matter, this is a public health crisis that has taken the lives of almost 70,000 Americans,” Whitmer said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who has also declined to reopen his state despite protests, similarly pushed back on those demonstrating against coronavirus restrictions.

"I think everybody has a right to protest and express their feelings," he said on CNN Sunday. "Sadly, we had far more people die yesterday in Maryland than we had protesters." 

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx on Sunday said it was “devastatingly worrisome” that those protesting did not wear masks or practice social distancing, warning that they could unknowingly transmit the novel coronavirus to at-risk relatives.

“It’s devastatingly worrisome to me personally because if they go home and they infect their grandmother or grandfather who has a comorbid condition and they have a serious or very unfortunate outcome they will feel guilty for the rest of their lives. So we need to protect each other at the same time as we’re voicing our discontent,” Birx said on “Fox News Sunday.”