In Cuomo v. Trump Donnybrook, Is McKinsey the Answer?

Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking at the emergency hospital set up at the Javits Center.
Reuters/ Mike Segar

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has hired high-powered — and to come critics, controversial — consultants to develop a science-based plan for the safe economic reopening of the region that can thwart expected pressure from President Donald Trump to move more rapidly, state government sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

Cuomo, along with many other governors, shut the state economy to limit the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus and has warned that he is are prepared to keep businesses shut – perhaps for several months more – unless he can assure public safety.

Governors from seven East Coast states formed a coalition on Monday, led by New York, to develop a joint reopening plan. Three governors from the West Coast formed a similar plan. The 10 states, mostly led by Democrats, together make up 38 percent of the US economy.

As part of Cuomo’s effort, McKinsey & Company is producing models on testing, infections, and other key data points that will underpin decisions on how and when to reopen the region’s economy, the sources said.

Cuomo has also recalled three former top aides: Bill Mulrow, a senior adviser at Blackstone Group; Steven Cohen, an executive vice president and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes Inc; and Larry Schwartz, the former Deputy County Executive in Westchester.

Deloitte is also involved in developing the regional plan, a source said.

The goal is to “Trump-proof” the plan, said an adviser to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.

“We think Trump ultimately will blink on this, but if not, we need to push back, and we are reaching out to top experts and other professionals to come up with a bullet-proof plan,” to open on the state’s terms, said a Cuomo adviser.

Trump, whose reelection bid was built on a strong economy before it was derailed by the epidemic, is losing patience with the economic blackout and has challenged governors who are preaching caution, setting the stage for larger clashes over the pace of the reopening.

Trump said in late March he hoped to reopen the economy by Easter in mid-April, but the mounting toll of infections and projected deaths forced him to extend federal guidelines for 30 days to the end of April.

More than 30,000 people have died in the United States from the epidemic. (Graphic of the US epidemic is at tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T.)

McKinsey is providing analysis on testing availability and demand across the state, supply chain for critical supplies, hospital capacity, and virus projections, a company official said.

“McKinsey, like so many other businesses, is committed to supporting the response to the crisis,” a company spokesman said.

The Trump administration has recently recommended a staggered reopening of the economy, starting with states with fewer infections and giving more time to those with severe problems, like New York and New Jersey.

Experts and governors have said there would need to be guarantees of ramped-up coronavirus testing before people return to work safely.

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