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General News    H4'ed 3/24/20

New York City: Catastrophe Looms

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The mayor of New York City is warning that unless hospitals in the city receive critically-needed medical supplies in the near future, people will die unnecessarily from the Coronavirus disease.

Bill deBlasio, mayor of the nation's largest city, told CNN Sunday the city has over 8,000 cases of COVID-19 and the "worst is yet to come."

But the federal government is not coming through with the level of assistance needed to deal with the crisis, he said.

"We're not getting shipments. We're not getting the stuff we need," deBlasio said. "If we don't get more ventilators in the next 10 days, people will die that don't have to die."

DeBlasio said it is high time that President Trump invoke the Defense Production Act to force private companies across the country to go all-out in manufacturing necessary supplies. Also, the president needs to order a nationwide mobilization of the military --- to distribute the supplies rapidly and to provide medical personnel to assist hospitals in dealing with the predicted tidal wave of new COVID-19 cases, he said.

"There's no president in history --- Republican or Democrat --- who would not have done this already," he said.

Mayor deBlasio spoke as the nation continues to reel from the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. Many cities and states are on a virtual lockdown, where non-essential businesses have been shut down and residents are being largely confined to their homes, as authorities try to stop the spread of the virus.

Nationally, there are about 50,000 cases and 600 deaths. But the figures are rising everyday.

Leaders from different areas of the country have been complaining that hospitals in their localities are facing shortages of key medical supplies and equipment to treat patients with COVID-19. And they're demanding that the federal government do more.

The most vocal critic has been deBlasio, who says that the Trump administration's piecemeal efforts to deal with the pandemic are totally inadequate. The administration has encouraged different companies to voluntarily increase production of needed supplies and then either donate or sell them to hospitals. Governors have also been authorized to use the National Guard where necessary to help out and the Army Corps of Engineers is being brought in some cases to build more temporary hospital beds.

But the New York mayor said the severity of the crisis --- which he likened to the Great Depression --- demands that Trump pull the trigger on the Defense Production Act and put the military into action.

"If you don't order companies to maximize production of ventilators, surgical masks and all the things that are desperately needed, and you don't organize that and prioritize where it's going to go, it won't happen on time," deBlasio said.

Other leaders in the New York region are also warning of severe problems at New York hospitals in the coming weeks. Governor Andrew Cuomo has been sounding the alarm in daily briefings and said Tuesday that it was "inexplicable" to him that Trump had not yet invoked the Defense Production Act.

Cuomo said the state had been able to procure only 7,000 of the 30,000 ventilators needed to deal with the expected surge of COVID-19 cases.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents part of the Bronx and Queens, said there will likely be an acute shortage of beds and ventilators when the expected wave of coronavirus cases hits hospitals in her district. She rejected the claim made by the director of FEMA that having the federal government take the step of ordering private companies to mass produce medical supplies was not yet justified.

"We cannot wait until people are really dying in large numbers to start production, especially of more sophisticated equipment like ventilators and hospital beds,"she said.

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Reginald Johnson is a free-lance writer based in Bridgeport, Ct. His work has appeared in The New York Times, BBC-Online, the Connecticut Post, his web magazine, The Pequonnock, and Reading Between the Lines, a web magazine affiliated with the (more...)
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