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Former Washington Journalist
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With equipment such as ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) becoming as valuable–and, often as scarce–in this new world as gold or oil, New York Gov Andrew Cuomo (D) signed an executive order designed to seize such gear and redirect it to where it’s needed most.
Governors such as Cuomo have often found themselves in competition with the federal government over the gear that saves lives in the COVID-19 pandemic while protecting the health and safety of health and medical providers.
There have been more than 1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide. The virus has killed more than 58,000.
In the United States, there have been 290,920 reported cases, including 7,844 deaths, according to the most recent figures.
The areas in and around New York have been the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, since that’s where the most cases are in the nation.
Under the terms of the executive order, the New York National Guard can confiscate gear like ventilators and PPE including medical masks and gowns from areas that aren’t using them and redeploy them to areas where they are needed most.
“We are still have the challenge of ventilators. We don’t have enough, period. The situation is very simple now. People come in, they are almost all COVID people. Ironically, the number of non-COVID cases has dropped because so many things are shut down that you don’t have the same number of automobile accidents or people getting hit by cars. You don’t have the same crime rates. So you don’t have the same number of trauma cases coming into a hospital,” Cuomo said. “They are COVID cases and many of them go right to the ICU, in the ICU you need a ventilator. If you don’t have a ventilator, the process stops. We don’t have enough ventilators. We’re doing everything possible, splitting of ventilators, using BiPAP machines, by this new protocol, using the anesthesia ventilators, we’re talking to the federal government to be as helpful as they can from the federal stockpile. But in truth I don’t believe the federal stockpile has enough to help all the states. Because you can’t buy the material at this point.
“We’re still trying to buy from China. We’re working with Alibaba which has been very, very helpful to us,” Cuomo added, referring to an international online marketplace. “I spoke to Jack Ma and Mike Evans, who is the president and they have been personally gracious and very, very helpful in trying to get us the source material from China. But we are going to have to redeploy ventilators from across the system. In other words, there are hospitals that have ventilators, there are hospitals that have PPE equipment. There are private sector companies that have PPE equipment that they are not using that we are going to need to redeploy to the places and the hospitals where we need them. I had a conversation with a hospital administrator yesterday. I understand they don’t want to give up their ventilators. Ventilators are expensive pieces of equipment. I understand that even if they are not using them, they are reluctant to see them go out the door.
“The theory is if the government gets them they will never get them back. I understand that. But I don’t have an option and I am not going to get into a situation where we know we are running out of ventilators and we could have people dying because there are no ventilators but there are hospitals in other parts of the state that have ventilators that they are not using,” Cuomo said. “I’m just not going to allow us to go there. I think it would be wholly irresponsible so I am going to sign an executive order that says the state can take ventilators and PPE from institutions that don’t need them now and redeploy them to other parts of the state and other hospitals that do need them.
“Those institutions will either get their ventilator back or they will be reimbursed and paid for their ventilator so they can buy a new ventilator. I can’t do anything more than that. But I am not going to be in a position where people are dying and we have several hundred ventilators in our own state somewhere else,” he added. “I apologize for the hardship to those institutions. Ultimately there is no hardship. If you don’t get the ventilator back, I give you my personal word I will pay you for the ventilator, but I am not going to let people die because we didn’t redistribute ventilators. The National Guard are going to be deployed to pick up these ventilators which are all across the state and deploy them to places where we need them.”
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