Even if the federal government was actually fulfilling its obligation to manage the coronavirus crisis on a national level, it still would be a good idea for states, and even counties within the state, to cooperate on various aspects of the response.
On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo gathered together the governors of New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Delaware to begin preparations for emerging from the crisis economically.
A team of three officials from each state — representing the areas of administration, health and economic development, would participate in an 18-member working group.
The idea behind the regional effort is to coordinate efforts among states that share common traits, such as a joint metropolitan area (in the case of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) shared workforces, the interstate highway system, school systems, tourist seasons, ocean shorelines and other assets.
The East Coast also was among the first areas of the country to experience the coronavirus epidemic, and therefore neighboring East Coast states will likely be on similar timetables for restarting their economies.
Some of the states that Cuomo didn’t include in his initial effort, including Massachusetts and Vermont, made it clear immediately after Cuomo’s nationally televised announcement that they, too, wanted to participate in some way. They should be welcomed to the task force.
At the same time as Cuomo was making his announcement, California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, announced plans to form a West Coast coalition on restoring the economy that includes Oregon and Washington state.
Not every solution or timetable the governors come up with in their respective states will be applicable to all of them, as each state is unique.
But by putting their heads together, they can brainstorm ideas that they can each use or adapt to their own states, and they can coordinate efforts such as transportation, where their needs and characteristics overlap.
The same holds true for regional efforts within the state.
For instance, the North Country economy relies heavily on outdoor recreation and tourism, so Adirondack counties have an opportunity to share ideas and services by working together as a region.
Regions also have a chance to work together.
Central New York has its own unique characteristics, but it also shares issues with other upstate regions, such as rural healthcare management and broadband access.
In addition to working together to reopen the economy, these regions could also act as their own lobbying forces to get the testing, equipment and aid they need from the state, specific to their regions.
The regional approach to solving problems is not new in New York. Within the state, municipalities, counties and school districts regularly cooperate on solid waste disposal, environmental protection, infrastructure, transportation and higher education (community colleges are one example).
Regional efforts work.
And when it comes to emerging from the economic coma created by the coronavirus, the best approach for states with similar characteristics and problems is coordination and cooperation.