Cuomo Repeats Calls for Trump to Order Companies to Manufacture Medical Supplies
by Dan Clark • Published on March 22, 2020 • 0 Comments
Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters Sunday, March 22, 2020.
Credit: Dan Clark
Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on President Donald Trump, again Sunday, to invoke a federal law that would allow his administration to order businesses to manufacture medical supplies and equipment that could be used to fill the demand now caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump, so far, has said he’s not ready to invoke the law, called the Defense Production Act, but Cuomo said Sunday that using the measure would make the pandemic easier to manage.
“I believe the federal government should take over that function of contracting and acquiring all the medical supplies we need,” Cuomo said. “Currently, when states are doing it, we’re competing against other restates.”
There’s a widespread shortage — globally, but particularly in New York — of medical masks, gowns, and ventilators, which are expected to be critical as the number of hospitalizations related to COVID-19 continues to rise.
The number of hospitalizations in New York related to the disease reached 1,974 as of Sunday morning. That’s about 13% of the positive cases identified in the state.
As of Sunday morning, 15,168 had tested positive for COVID-19 in New York. More than 61,000 people have been tested for the disease so far, Cuomo said.
Of those who’ve been diagnosed with the disease, 114 people have died, Cuomo said. Most of those individuals, 70%, were over the age of 70. But five of them were between the ages of 40 and 49, according to Cuomo’s office.
New York state currently has somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000 ventilators available, with another 6,000 expected in the coming weeks. That’s still more than 20,000 short of the number of ventilators the state Department of Health says may be needed by early May.
The cost of purchasing ventilators — which the state has done when they’re available — is huge. They can cost anywhere between $16,000 to $45,000 each, Cuomo said.
“This is just an impossible situation to manage,” Cuomo said. “If we don’t get the equipment, we could lose lives that we could have otherwise saved if we had the right equipment.”
Trump, earlier this week, left the door open to using the Defense Production Act, but said he hopes it won’t be necessary. Companies have, voluntarily, started producing some of the needed supplies.
“We’re starting to, we’re starting the process. We hope it’s not necessary, but it could be necessary,” Trump said. “The state is working on it very hard themselves, but we’ll probably supplement what they’re doing.”
Cuomo also called on federal lawmakers to divert more funding to New York state to help deal with the pandemic. He said members of Congress should allocate more funding to New York than other states because of the state’s high concentration of cases.
New York has the highest number of identified cases in the country by far. The state of Washington has identified the second-highest number of cases, with 1,647 people diagnosed there with the disease.
Cuomo said members of Congress shouldn’t seek to bolster legislation with federal funding for places without a relatively high number of cases for political purposes.
“Fund the places that need it, follow the number of cases, and use need as the basis for funding,” Cuomo said. “It’s common sense, it will be respected by the people of this nation, and the alternative — to politicize this funding process — is intolerable.”
He also called on federal lawmakers to craft legislation carefully that would provide a bailout for large corporations.
That assistance, Cuomo said, should not be allowed to be used by companies for purposes of buying back stock, or paying executives. It should be diverted in a way that will, ultimately, benefit taxpayers, Cuomo said.
“The corporate funding should not be a gift to corporations at the taxpayer’s expense,” Cuomo said. “If the taxpayers are going to bail out these big corporations, make sure the taxpayers share in the success of these corporations.”
The majority of positive cases, according to Cuomo’s office, has continued to be concentrated in New York City, which has now become a national epicenter for the virus.
Cuomo said he’s asked New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson to come up with a plan, by Monday, for reducing density in the five boroughs. That could mean opening some streets to pedestrians, Cuomo said.