The Business Roundtable, a lobbying group representing chief executives of major companies, urged the White House to follow a strategy of reopening the economy from the coronavirus pandemic that is “guided by public health officials.”
The group’s president, Joshua Bolten, wrote in a recent letter to the White House that the administration should make public safety a priority, emphasizing the need for federal guidelines and coordination between states.
“Protecting the lives of Americans must remain the country’s paramount interest,” said Bolten, a former chief of staff to President George W. Bush. “Americans need to know that policy makers and employers are prioritizing their safety.”
The business group pressed its message after President Donald Trump -- who has favored his economic advisers’ views over those of public health officials -- on Monday asserted his “total” power over when to restart the economy over that of state governors.
Trump’s statement runs counter to the Constitution, which leaves those decisions in the hands of individual states.
The federal government’s role should focus instead on setting guidelines for states on issues such as safety, including required “personal protective equipment, cleaning procedures, testing and other diagnostic tools, and virus monitoring,” the letter said.
The federal government can also help define risk levels that will allow states to decide how much they can open, and what restrictions to leave in place because of the need to move gradually, the letter said.
Groups of states on each coast led by California Governor Gavin Newsom and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have gathered to coordinate their reopening efforts, drawing Trump’s ire.
The Business Roundtable also urged all levels of government to “identify and invest in the critical resources our country needs in order to lift restrictions safely,” including testing, monitoring, vaccines and protective equipment.
The group’s board includes the heads of Apple Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., CVS Health Corp. and other companies. Walmart Inc.’s Doug McMillon serves as the BRT’s chairman.
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