Mayor Touts New York City as Future Hub for Ventilators

A medical worker performs a nasal swab test for Covid-19 in Harlem, New York, on Monday. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

MANHATTAN (CN) — As President Trump sits down with the governor of New York on Tuesday to discuss Covid-19 testing, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday the city will begin manufacturing ventilators for a stockpile.

“We New Yorkers will take care of ourselves,” de Blasio said in his daily coronavirus press briefing Tuesday.

The Big Apple is now building what the mayor called a strategic reserve program of vital medical gear and supplies, including face shields, surgical gowns, test kits and so-called “bridge” ventilators. The extra supply is intended for any future wave of pandemic, the mayor said. New York City — still in the middle of its first Covid-19 wave — could see subsequent jumps in infection as it relaxes social-distancing measures. 

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo speaks Tuesday at the state Capitol. (Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

Following his White House meeting, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a partnership with the U.S. government to double his state’s testing capacity. 

“To quantify that situation in the state of New York, we now do, on average, about 20,000 tests per day. … Our goal is to double the 20,000 to get to 40,000 tests per day,” Cuomo said in a press conference. “We need several weeks to ramp up to that, but it is a very aggressive goal. … That’s our goal and it was a very productive conversation.”

Earlier this week, Cuomo had skewered Trump’s remarks about testing being an action for which the state is responsible. The governor said states can only do so much without the federal government ensuring that the supply chain is running smoothly.

Revisiting that theme on Tuesday, Cuomo said New York will manage the actual tests in state laboratories, but the labs need to work with equipment companies that put out the actual tests.

“The national manufacturers have said they have a problem with the supply chain to quickly ramp up those tests. … That is where the federal government can help. … Let the federal government take responsibility for that federal supply chain for the national manufacturers,” Cuomo said. “That’s what we agreed in this meeting.”

In an April 2020 paper for the Rand Corporation, Elizabeth Hastings Roer and Isla Globus-Harris proposed a mechanism for resource sharing in a pandemic that would discourage hoarding and could keep regions from experiencing medical supply shortages. 

National hot spots of virus could receive donated medical supplies from areas where virus levels are lower, with the promise the equipment will boomerang back to so-called “cool spots” when they need it. Any supply plan requires regions to plan ahead, while they are not embroiled in crisis — difficult in an aggressively capitalist nation like the U.S. 

“The mechanism will work if decisionmakers in cool spots believe that, if they delay their acquisition of medical supplies or relinquish current inventories, they will still be able to access supplies when they need them, either from new production or from the central backing pool,” the experts wrote. 

As de Blasio described Tuesday, New York City will manufacture its own Spiro Wave bridge ventilators, which are breathing machines that help patients with less severe respiratory issues and will stretch the city’s supply of full-service ventilators. 

In his press briefings, Governor Cuomo has repeated the statistic that about 80% of Covid-19 patients who are intubated, or put on a ventilator, do not survive. The machine is a last resort for doctors. But for now, until there are proven treatments for the disease, hospitals still need ventilators to save as many lives as they can. 

New York City will purchase its first 3,000 units for $10 million — that’s $3,333 per machine — from Boyce Technologies in Queens. 

The city has also acquired a million square yards of waterproof fabric from North Carolina to make 400,000 of its own surgical gowns, which the mayor says will be finished by May 10. 

De Blasio also said the city’s five new community testing sites, which serve at-risk populations, are on track to test about 3,600 people for the virus this week and up to 7,000 beginning next week, when five more testing sites will open. 

City and state infection data remained high but steady Tuesday, though there is a two-day lag in the city’s data. Before leaving for Washington, Cuomo emphasized the whack-a-mole aspect of the pandemic. 

“This is like stamping out a brush fire,” he said — “you need to run to where the fire is, and put it out there. So we will be watching for a spread of the fire from downstate New York state toward upstate. Whenever we see a small fire starting, we jump on it right away — testing, isolation, etcetera. … Different regions of the country have different curves. The virus does not hit at the same time at the same rate.”

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland acquired thousands of tests from South Korea for his state — a feat for which he credited his wife’s fluency in Korean. Yumi Hogan is the country’s first Korean-American first lady. She immigrated to the United States from South Korea in the 1980s.

At an earlier press briefing Tuesday in Buffalo, Cuomo joked he took heat from his daughters at the dinner table about why he, too, had not ordered tests from South Korea. 

“It’s not what the states normally are responsible for,” Cuomo said Tuesday. 

“Let the federal government figure out South Korea and China international supply issues, rather than have 50 states now figure out how to be like Governor Hogan, and figure out how to buy tests in South Korea. That’s what the federal government should do. And that’s the intelligent distribution of responsibility on testing.” 

President Trump has offered Maryland the use of federal labs in which to utilize the test kits, Hogan tweeted Monday. 

Cuomo announced that some hospitals in the state without significant Covid-19 risk will be allowed to conduct elective, outpatient treatments, which are in normal times a reliable source of income

Bewilderingly, de Blasio also announced Tuesday that “the first thing we will do” post-pandemic is hold ticker-tape parade to honor health care workers. Such an event is unlikely to be safe for many months, if not years. 

“The prospect of mass gatherings is negligible at best until we get to herd immunity and we get to a vaccine,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said earlier this month

De Blasio continues to face criticism by open-streets advocates for his repeated insistence that he cannot safely close streets to cars so that cyclists, runners and pedestrians would get more space outside to socially distance. 

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