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UPDATE: Cuomo backtracks on ventilators for downstate

State Gov. Andrew Cuomo

State Gov. Andrew Cuomo this afternoon said he would issue an Executive Order allowing the state to redistribute ventilators and personal protective equipment, or PPE, from institutions that don’t currently need them and redeploy the equipment to other hospitals with the highest need.

As of 4 p.m., those plans have changed. According to Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo, the governor is only looking to take a portion of the devices.

“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 the increase in upstate,” Azzopardi said in a statement. “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.

“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’s earlier edict stated the National Guard would be used to transport the ventilators and PPE across the state. The equipment will be returned to the hospital or the hospital will be reimbursed for the equipment in the future.

“We are not upstate or downstate we are one state and we act that way.”“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. “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. And when our curve is over, New Yorkers are going to take our equipment, our personnel and our knowledge and we will go to any community in this nation that needs help, because that outpouring has been there for us.”

The governor’s earlier message did not sit well with area elected officials throughout upstate. In a joint message, U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-District 23, and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell of Jamestown opposed the governor’s order. “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 said. “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.”

State Sen. George Borrello also criticized the plan. “We are seeing on a daily basis, the rapid spread of this unpredictable virus in cities and communities across upstate,” he said. “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.

“While we understand the extreme circumstances that hospitals in New York City and downstate are experiencing, the health and safety of our upstate residents is just as critical. I have sent a letter to Governor Cuomo asking him to reverse this reckless decision.”

Cuomo also announced the temporary hospital facility at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center will now be used for COVID-19 patients only. Thursday, President Trump granted the Governor’s request for the Javits facility to accept COVID-19 positive patients.

Cuomo also announced the launch of www.ny.gov/covid-19tracker, which will provide New York State’s comprehensive coronavirus testing data to the public. The website, which will be updated daily with the latest data, presents visualizations of statewide and county-level testing and results. The public can also access the testing data through Open NY at data.ny.gov, New York State’s open data portal, which offers machine readable datasets in downloadable standard formats that can be sorted, searched, analyzed and applied to new uses.

Drive-through mobile testing facilities help keep people who are sick or at risk of having contracted coronavirus out of healthcare facilities where they could infect other people. New York is currently testing more than 16,000 people per day, more than any other state and more than China and South Korea on a per capital basis.

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