Since the middle of March, many states in the US have locked down, encouraged social distancing, imposed shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders, and put travellers into quarantine.
Generally, each state is responsible for its response to Covid-19 – that's why some have locked down earlier than others, or been more stringent about the measures necessary. But earlier this week, President Trump asserted that he had absolute authority over every state, and that he can authorise governors to re-open them.
Trump claimed on Twitter that decisions about when states can re-open are up to him, as the president, but that he would also work with governors to decide when that would happen. He also made similar remarks during a press conference, where he said that the “president calls the shots” and that “the authority is total”.
Trump also took specific aim at New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, saying that Cuomo was calling “daily, hourly” asking for ventilators and medical supplies.
Constitutional scholars and experts have pointed out that the US constitution says states maintain public order and safety. Governors do have the authority to close businesses, schools or public facilities as they have done in the last month, and they also have the authority to open them up again without any involvement from Trump.
Pres Trump stated that “When somebody is President of the United States, his authority is total.” The Constitution… https://t.co/spNKFPvYTD
Trump also contradicted himself – earlier in March, he said that the responsibility of handling outbreaks was up to the governors and politicians in individual states. Trump’s stay-at-home order expires on April 30th, although he has not yet said whether he will extend the order.
Trump has since walked this claim back slightly – in a press conference, he said that he would be "authorising each individual governor of each individual state to implement a ...very powerful reopening plan of their state.” However, there is little evidence to suggest that there is much he would be able to do if a state wanted to carry on with stay-at-home orders.
Trump also tweeted a warning to Democratic governors about a 'mutiny', referring to a 1963 movie.
A loose organisation of 10 states including Massachussetts and California have indicated they are coordinating potential plans for re-opening the economy when they feel it’s safe to do so.