ALBANY – Governor Andrew Cuomo Friday said he will issue an Executive Order allowing the state to redistribute ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) from in-state institutions that don’t currently need them and redeploy the equipment to other hospitals with the highest need.
The governor’s office said that up to 20 percent of a hospital’s unused ventilator stock could be moved to areas of higher need, as deemed by his office.
Cuomo said the executive order will allow the National Guard to transport the ventilators and PPE. He also said the equipment will be returned to the hospital or the hospital will be reimbursed for the equipment in the future.
“We are still challenging the issue of ventilators. We don’t have enough period. This situation is very simple now. People come in and they are almost all COVID people,” the governor said during a press conference on Friday. “Many of them go right to the ICU. In the ICU, you need a ventilator. And if you don’t have a ventilator, the process stops and we don’t have enough ventilators.”
According to the Governor’s Office, there were 10,000 new cases reported on Friday, bringing the statewide total to 102,000 In addition, 14,000 people are hospitalized with 3,700 in ICU. The state also saw the highest single increase in the number of deaths, going from an estimated 2,300 to 2,900.
More than half of the statewide total involves cases in New York City, which has 57,000+ confirmed cases. Long Island has another 22,000+ confirmed cases and Westchester County has 12,000+ confirmed cases.
“The hot spots we now track on a nightly basis. How many people go into what facility, so we can track the increase in what’s happening? You see an increase in New York City as we knew… But you also see an increase on Long Island which is something we’re concerned about. Long Island does not have as elaborate a health care system as New York City. We don’t have the same amount of resources on Long Island and we see an increase in the number of cases on Long Island and that has us very concerned,” Cuomo said.
The move has drawn heavy criticism from several upstate Republican lawmakers.
“With COVID-19 rapidly increasing in several upstate cities and communities, I was shocked to hear the Governor announce that he has signed an executive order allowing ventilators and personal protective equipment from upstate hospitals to be seized for distribution in downstate facilities,” said Sen. George Borrello (R-Irving), who was sworn in the senate at the start of this year.
Borrello also pointed to the rapid spread of the virus across Upstate New york, including Western New York.
“Next door in Erie County, which borders the northernmost portion of the 57th District, cases are multiplying at lightning speed. Surrounding counties are also seeing sharp upticks in cases. Taking lifesaving ventilators and PPE from any of our hospitals creates the very real danger that residents and health care workers in the region could see their health, and even their lives, threatened by the lack of necessary equipment.”
The governor’s office listed the number of confirmed cases currently in Erie County at 720 as of Friday. Meanwhile nearby Monroe County has 464 confirmed cases. However, as most health officials have acknowledged, the virus is most likely far more widespread than what the confirmed case count indicates. That’s mainly because of a shortage of testing, meaning many people who have symptoms are still unable to be tested for confirmation.
Borrello was also one of 14 upstate Republicans to sign off on a joint statement denouncing the executive order, calling it “reckless.”
“We have been watching the situation in New York City and we have an increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths in other parts of New York,” The group wrote. “Taking our ventilators by force leaves our people without protection and our hospitals unable to save lives today or respond to a coming surge. We stand together opposing the Governor’s very dangerous and reckless action. He is leaving our communities in a terrible position which will cost lives.”
The group of 14 also included House Representatives Tom Reed (R-Corning, NY 23) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY 21) and State Assemblyman Andy Goodell (R-Ellicott, 150th District).
Later on Friday, Rich Azzapardi, advisor to the governor, responded to the criticism and concerns expressed by the upstate representatives. He also clarified that it would only be up to 20 percent of a hospitals unused ventilator.
“In addressing the coronavirus pandemic, it is essential that we all work together,” Azzapardi said. “While the pandemic is primarily in downstate New York now – it is projected to peak and reduce in downstate and the 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.”
Azzapardi also said that the life-saving ventilators 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,” he added. “We are not upstate or downstate we are one state and we act that way.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Cuomo also announced the state is seeking local businesses to help in the production of PPE.
“Supplies, PPE are in short supply as they are across the country. We need companies to make the materials,” Cuomo said. “It is unbelievable to me that in New York State, in the United States of America, we can’t make these materials and that we are all shopping China to try to get these materials and we’re all competing against each other. These are not complex materials and will work with New York manufacturers. We’ll finance the transition necessary to make these materials.”
The governor also announced a New Website that provides daily tracking of COVID-19 for each county in the state.