Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today came close to accusing President Trump of valuing corporate profits more than the lives of Americans as he implored the president to actually use the Defense Production Act to order U.S. manufacturers to begin producing needed ventilators, face masks and other protective gear for doctors, nurses and first responders in treating COVID-19 patients.
Trump had activated the DPA, but not yet used the powers it provides to require companies to produce vital supplies.
Cuomo held a news conference at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan, which is being converted for use as a hospital facility by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
On Monday, President Trump at a White House briefing said he planned to decide in two weeks whether to put an end to efforts to enforce social distancing through shutting down businesses.
There have been enormous economic effects from the enforced slowdown that medical experts worldwide say is the only way to slow the spread of the virus in the hope that hospital systems do not become overwhelmed with patients.
“We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem,” Trump said. Trump also compared deaths from COVID-19 with the death toll from ordinary flu and automobile accidents saying that we don’t ban everyone from driving just because some people die in accidents.
In 2018, 36,560 people died in auto accidents in the U.S., and so far this year about 22,000 people have died in the U.S. from influenza. However, experience in other countries indicates that the death rate from COVID-19 is more than 10 times the death rate from influenza.
The federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in a worse-case scenario in which there are not adequate measures taken to impede the virus, 214 million Americans would be affected with 1.7 million deaths.
Cuomo said, “This conversation about the economy…well if we’re only talking about one or two percent of the population (dying) and they’re old and they’re vulnerable and they’re sick anyway then why stop the economy? How much are we paying for this one or two percent? They’re old they’re vulnerable, they’re going to die anyway. Why stop the train for the one or two percent?”
Without naming Trump, Cuomo took a stand: “We’re not willing to sacrifice that one or two percent. We’re not willing to do that. That is not who we are. Not what we are. It’s not what we believe. We are going to fight every way we can to save every life that we can because that’s what I think it means to be an American. I know that’s what it means to be a New Yorker. So I’m not going to leave any stone unturned until we can make sure everyone is protected.”
Referring to news reports this morning that FEMA would be sending 400 ventilators to New York state, Cuomo said, “400 ventilators? I need 30,000 ventilators! You want a pat on the back for sending 400 ventilators? What are we going to do with 400 ventilators when we need 30,000 ventilators? You’re missing the magnitude of the problem. The problem is defined by the magnitude,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo said that there now have been 3,891 cases of COVID-19 detected in Westchester, with 25,665 total cases in New York state. New York City had 14,904 cases. In Rockland, there were 671 and 497 in Orange County. Dutchess had 124 cases. There were 210 deaths reported in New York state.
With respect to the need for ventilators and the federal government’s unwillingness to put into service its strategic stockpile of more than 20,000 units, Cuomo said that the federal government should pick the thousands who will die from not having access to a ventilator to aid with their breathing.
He said the federal government needs to start acting smart and deploy ventilators to where they are needed and then, after the peak had been passed in one area, move them to the next part of the country where they will be needed.
Cuomo said that New York, with most of the COVID-19 cases, needs the ventilators first. He said that after the apex passed is New York, he’ll move the ventilators himself to other parts of the country if need be.
Cuomo said that new projections indicate that the virus is spreading so fast that New York state will need 140,000 beds in hospitals when the outbreak reaches its peak. The state had been projecting that the number would be 110,000. He estimated that the peak will occur in the next 14 to 21 days.