April 16, 2020

Heinrich joins task force to advise White House on reopening economy

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich will be part of a bipartisan task force to advise the White House on reopening the American economy in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This public health crisis is like nothing any of us have ever experienced. As elected leaders and policymakers, we will rightly be measured by how we responded,” Heinrich said in a statement. “I’m committed to bringing all of our country’s resources to bear to confront this pandemic, and putting partisan politics aside.”

Heinrich will join members of both the House and Senate on the panel. 

Politico, citing a Democratic aide, reported that Trump was not antagonistic during a phone call with members of Congress Thursday morning. The members received invitations to participate on Wednesday.

“I hope that serving on this task force will allow me to offer sound and honest advice to the president,” Heinrich said. “I will continue to do everything in my power to demand a coordinated federal response that’s rooted in science, and work alongside leaders in New Mexico to confront this pandemic and rebuild our economy.”

As of publication, the New York Times reported over 640,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nearly 29,000 deaths nationwide. In New Mexico, the state announced Wednesday afternoon that 1,484 people have tested positive for the disease and 36 COVID-19-related deaths. 

The White House has increasingly emphasized reopening the economy, which has been in a freefall in recent weeks in large part because of restrictions put in place by states to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a public health emergency, through the Department of Health, on March 11. The state amended that to include a stay-at-home order on March 23, which shuttered many businesses from doing in-person business. The state has tightened restrictions a number of times since then, including limiting gatherings to no more than five people. 

Similar restrictions in most states have led to 22 million Americans filing for unemployment in the last month, the largest such movement since the U.S. Department of Labor began tracking data in 1967.

Trump has been eager to reopen the economy.

He named dozens of executives to advisory committees, which the White House called the Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups, to work on plans to reopen the economy.

But governors, who have imposed restrictions and are those who will be the ones to lift them, have been more cautious on when it would be safe to ease restrictions without sparking more spread of the deadly disease.

Earlier this week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced six indicators that the state, the most populous in the country, will follow to determine when to ease restrictions. California is working with Oregon and Washington on a regional plan on when to lift restrictions. Six northeastern states—New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Delaware and Rhode Island—have also formed their own regional pact. On Thursday, governors of midwestern states—Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Kentucky—announced their own pacts.

While New Mexico has not joined such a coalition, Lujan Grisham said on Wednesday during her press conference that she had spoken to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and that they were working on and evaluating strategies on economic recovery.

“Businesses that are exactly the same in either of the states can get the same kind of support in a meaningful way,” Lujan Grisiham said.New Mexico will also take part in a pilot program related to tracing and surveillance of the spread of COVID-19, Lujan Grisham announced Wednesday. Details are sparse, but it will include other states and likely with direct contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.