De Blasio demands essential medical supplies from feds

Mayor de Blasio during a media availability on the coronavirus.
Mayor de Blasio during a media availability on the coronavirus.
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office
Mayor de Blasio during a media availability on the coronavirus.

De Blasio demands essential medical supplies from feds

Without them, New York City’s hospitals could run out in the next few weeks.
March 20, 2020

On Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio demanded that President Donald Trump send aid to the city, which is quickly becoming overwhelmed by the coronavirus outbreak.

“The fate of New York City rests in the hands of one man,” de Blasio said during a press conference. “He is a New Yorker. And right now, he is betraying the city he comes from.”

The city has requested that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services send essential medical supplies that the city needs: 15,000 ventilators, 3 million N95 masks, 50 million surgical masks and 45 million face shields, gloves, surgical gowns and coveralls. It has also requested that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs allow the city to use available hospital beds, staff and medical supplies.

Some city hospitals are already running critically low on supplies and have been forced to reuse masks and hospital gowns. Intensive care units are overflowing with patients and private health care workers have been enlisted to help combat the heavy stream of COVID-19 patients.

“From the very beginning, New York City has been fighting COVID-19 with one hand tied behind our back,” de Blasio said. “We cannot leave our health care workers vulnerable, and we need the federal government to step up and give our front-line workers the tools they need to save lives all across our city.”

On Wednesday, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act, which gives him the power to expedite the production of supplies for the purpose of national security. The president said that he would only use this power in a “worst-case scenario.” However, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer urged the president during a phone call on Friday to rush the production of important medical supplies to those who desperately need them. And apparently, Trump agreed to do so. The president also announced on Wednesday that he will be sending the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, which contains 1,000 hospital beds, to New York. But the ship may not leave for another two weeks as it is still undergoing maintenance.

New York City has quickly become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. On Friday, the number of positive COVID-19 cases went up to 4,408 in New York City and 7,102 in the state. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that the number of positive coronavirus cases is projected to peak in about 45 days. By then, it’s estimated that the state may need as many as 110,000 hospital beds and 37,200 intensive care unit beds.

Without the necessary supplies, health care professionals are also more likely to contract the virus – and some already have. On Thursday, the New York State Nurses Association warned Cuomo in a letter that if health care workers continue to get sick by being exposed to coronavirus patients, “hospitals will cease to function.”

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” Dr. Saquib Rahim, an internist at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, told The Wall Street Journal. “We’re praying that somehow we’ll be able to stem the tide.”

Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
is City & State's web reporter and social media editor.
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