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Cuomo orders hospitals to give spare ventilators, PPE to help downstate

By Adam Rombel (arombel@cnybj.com)

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday delivers his daily COVID-19 press briefing in the Red Room of the Capitol in Albany (Photo credit: Darren McGee, Office of the Governor, via his Flickr account).

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday said he is ordering hospitals across New York state to turn over ventilators and personal protection equipment (PPE) like masks, gloves, and gowns, that he says they don’t currently need, to help New York City–area facilities facing a surge of COVID-19 patients.

The governor is deploying the National Guard to pick up and transport the ventilators and PPE across the state. The equipment will be returned to the hospital from which it was taken or the state will reimburse it for the equipment in the future.

“We have taken extraordinary measures to build our stockpile of ventilators, masks and other personal protective equipment, but we still do not have enough,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Our greatest challenge has been ventilators — we are running out of them in our most stressed regions of the state, and there are hospitals in other parts of the state that have ventilators that they are not using and I will not be in a position where people are dying and we have several hundred ventilators in our own state somewhere else. I am signing a new Executive Order that will allow the state to redistribute these ventilators from institutions that don’t need them now and send them to hospitals in other parts of the state that do need them.”

The move comes as New York recorded it highest one-day increases in coronavirus cases (10,482) and deaths (562) since the COVID-19 crisis hit the state a few weeks ago. The Empire State now has 102,863 total coronavirus cases, and 2,935 people have died. More than 96 percent of the state’s COVID-19 cases are in the Greater New York City area (New York City, plus the counties of Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Dutchess, and Putnam).

Cuomo’s order received criticism from some upstate New York legislators.

 “The governor’s plan to deploy the National Guard to seize ventilators from our communities so they can be redistributed elsewhere would compromise our regional health system’s capacity to effectively manage a surge in COVID-19 cases. It’s extreme, it’s reckless and I’m joining the chorus of elected officials from our region who oppose this,” Assemblyman Brian M. Kolb (R,C–Victor), former Assembly minority leader, said in a statement. He represents the 131st Assembly District, which encompasses all of Ontario County and parts of Seneca County.

An advisor to Cuomo released a statement Friday afternoon, responding to the criticism and clarifying what the governor’s order means.

“In addressing the coronavirus pandemic, it is essential that we all work together. While the pandemic is primarily in downstate New York now — it is projected to peak and reduce in downstate and then increase in upstate. It is essential that we all help each other and the governor is asking upstate hospitals to loan 20 percent of their unused ventilators to struggling downstate hospitals,” Rich Azzopardi, senior advisor to Cuomo, said. “Ventilators literally save lives. They will be returned or reimbursed to those hospitals. Moreover, when the pandemic wave hits upstate New York, the governor will ask downstate hospitals for similar help.”

Cuomo in his daily briefings has stressed all week the need for sharing hospital resources to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Several dozen downstate patients suffering from the disease have been sent to Albany hospitals. And some staff from upstate hospitals have been deployed in New York City–area facilities.

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