New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, excoriated Congress on Thursday for failing to provide much-needed aid to his state as it battles a soaring number of fatalities and a continuing scramble for medical supplies.
The $2tn coronavirus stimulus package that passed the Senate late on Wednesday woefully neglects New York, according to Cuomo, who said it allocated $5bn in aid to the state, earmarked only for Covid-19 expenses. The funds do nothing to address the $10bn-$15bn in lost revenue New York expects to incur because of the crisis, Cuomo said.
“This was the time to put politics aside and partisanship aside,” Cuomo said during a press briefing. “This is the time for governmental leaders to stop making excuses and just do your job. Do your job.”
He was not alone.
New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, on Wednesday expressed alarm at the fact that the city has only been promised $1bn in aid through the same bill, even it accounts for almost a third of coronavirus cases nationwide. He blamed the Republican Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, for the financially crippling oversight.
“I don’t understand how anybody – any public servant – could live with themselves if they deprived the cities in the middle of the biggest crisis since the Great Depression – deprived us, deprived our state – of the money we need,” De Blasio said.
The bill is the latest battleground between New York officials and the federal government; De Blasio and Cuomo have continually challenged the Trump administration and Congress to do more for their constituents. The contest over funding comes as New York sees an increase in confirmed Covid-19 cases and deaths, and as the state stares down a devastating lack of medical resources that could put lives at risk.
New York City reported 280 deaths by Wednesday evening, a leap from 199 deaths tallied earlier in the day, as hospitals were overwhelmed by a “cacophony of coughing” from Covid-19 cases. Across the state, Cuomo reported 37,258 confirmed cases and 385 deaths by Thursday, with more likely to come.
“This is the really bad news. The number of deaths is increasing. It’s bad news because people are dying, and that’s the worst news you can have,” Cuomo said.
He attributed the rise in fatalities to people who have been on ventilators for long periods of time and never recovered, and he said there were patients who have now been on ventilators for 20 to 30 days.
These lifesaving machines that patients with the most severe Covid-19 symptoms rely on have been a stressor for New York, and on Thursday, Cuomo explained why. Not only is there a tremendous dearth – New York hospitals only had 4,000 ventilators in the system at the beginning of the outbreak and will need 30,000 – but Covid-19 patients need ventilators for 11 to 21 days on average, so turnarounds are slow.
To try to manage need, one Manhattan hospital has already started sharing ventilators between two patients who require similar ventilator settings, according to the New York Times.
Still, Trump dismissed these realities. “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” he said in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Thursday night.
While hospitals experience a tidal wave of Covid-19 patients, they have been mandated to increase their capacity. Under normal circumstances the state only supports 53,000 hospital beds and 3,000 intensive care unit beds, and hospitals are scrambling to supply the 140,000 beds and 40,000 ICU beds that they are projected to need once the outbreak reaches its apex.
As Cuomo implores hospitals to exponentially increase their capacity, 40,000 healthcare workers have volunteered with the state’s surge healthcare force to address the pandemic, including students and retirees.
Addressing reports of severe supply shortages already at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, de Blasio said he had already resupplied the hospital with additional ventilators four times in the past ten days and today sent over 40 additional ventilators. “If we have it, it will get to you,” he said at a press conference Thursday.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, New York City had 20,000 hospital beds; de Blasio said he hopes to triple the system’s capacity to 60,000 beds by May. De Blasio said New York was showing the nation how to deal with a crisis. “It’ll be a helluva challenge, these weeks ahead. But there’s nowhere on earth where people meet a challenge like New York City.”
Meanwhile, New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, addressed yet another health crisis and dangerous byproduct of the virus: persecution targeting Asian Americans. James created a hotline to report hate crimes and discrimination earlier this week after people started to describe aggressive, racist behavior perpetrated against them in the name of the virus.
“No one should live in fear for their life because of who they are, what they look like, or where they come from,” James said in a statement.