Donald Trump has called on his supporters to “liberate” Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia – all of whom have Democratic governors – as he tries to get the crippled US economy reopened.
Strict stay-at-home orders have been imposed by politicians in 42 states to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, with businesses closed and millions of Americans out of work.
Some people have started taking to the streets to urge governors to reconsider the COVID-19 restrictions, including a demonstration outside the home of governor Tim Walz in Minnesota.
There have also been protests in Virginia and Michigan as well as Ohio, Texas, North Carolina and Kentucky.
Jay Inslee, the Democratic governor for Washington, accused Mr Trump of encouraging “illegal and dangerous acts”.
The president also criticised New York governor Andrew Cuomo, another Democrat, for his comments over the federal response.
Mr Trump claimed Mr Cuomo should spend more time “doing” and less time “complaining”.
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Mr Cuomo had earlier said the president was “passing the buck without passing the bucks”, accusing the government of underfunding the response.
He warned: “The federal government cannot wipe its hands of this and say, ‘Oh, the states are responsible for testing’. We cannot do it. We cannot do it without federal help.”
The issue has become a personal one between the two high-profile politicians, with the president tweeting: “Cuomo ridiculously wanted “40 thousand Ventilators”. We gave him a small fraction of that number, and it was plenty. State should have had them in stockpile!”
On Thursday, the president unveiled a three-step set of guidelines for easing restrictions over several weeks in places that have widespread testing and are seeing a fall in COVID-19 cases.
And he assured the nation’s governors “you’re going to call your own shots”, after previously claiming he had the power to reopen the economy.
But governors from both sides of the political divide are calling for more help from Washington to ramp up testing – as the president put the focus back on them, tweeting: “The States have to step up their testing!”
Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who has been critical of the government’s response to the crisis, admitted people were very anxious about their livelihoods and worried about paying the rent when they were out of work.
“But the last thing I want to do is to have a second wave here, so we’ve got to be really smart,” she said.
However, she also said she was hopeful the state could begin to reopen parts of its economy beginning on 1 May.
Ohio’s Mike DeWine has already said his state would start to reopen on the same day.
Both governors along with those in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky have formed a partnership to work together on restarting their economies, which make up about 16% of total US economic output.