NY joining six states to buy vital coronavirus gear in bulk
The states' cumulative buying power will help them more efficiently prepare for a possible second wave; Mayor Bill de Blasio praises NYC residents for social distancing
By Michael R. Sisak
NEW YORK — New York is banding together with six nearby states to purchase equipment and supplies that sometimes have been hard to come by during the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday.
Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is praising residents for mostly adhering to coronavirus social distancing rules during the warmest weekend of the spring, with police handing out only a few dozen summonses.
Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments in New York:
STATES JOINING FORCES AGAIN
After working with neighboring states on coronavirus-related closing and reopening plans, Cuomo said Sunday that New York will join with states from Massachusetts to Delaware to create a regional supply chain for masks, gowns, ventilators, testing supplies and other equipment vital to fighting the disease.
The states are joining together after months of dealing separately with what Cuomo said was a "totally inefficient and ineffective" purchasing process that pitted all 50 states against each other, as well as the federal government and other entities, driving up prices as supplies dried up.
New York buys about $2 billion worth of medical equipment supplies per year, Cuomo said. The other states joining the consortium together spend about $5 billion per year. Working together, they'll have stronger purchasing power and improve their clout with global suppliers, Cuomo said.
It will make us more competitive in the international marketplace and I believe it will save taxpayers money," Cuomo said. "I also believe it will actually help us get the equipment, because we have trouble still getting the equipment."
The other states in the consortium are Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. One goal, the states' governors said, is to find suppliers within the region, instead of relying on swamped manufacturers in China and other faraway places.
On a parallel track, they'll also continue to work with the federal government to procure medical gear, Cuomo said.
"Whatever they can do to help is great," Cuomo said.
SHORING UP HOSPITAL SUPPLIES
In a lesson learned from the coronavirus crisis, Cuomo said that going forward, hospitals in New York will be required to to keep a 90-day supply on hand of masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment that ran critically short at times.
In building their stockpiles, hospitals should account not for normal usage, but for the high equipment usage rates they've seen during the pandemic, Cuomo said. Because of dwindling supplies, hospitals were rationing supplies and asking staff to reuse masks until they became soiled.
At one point in the crisis, hospitals in the New York-Presbyterian system were burning through about 40,000 masks a day — about 10 times the normal amount, according to Columbia University Medical Center officials.
"We can't go through this day-to-day moving masks across the state, this mad scramble that we were in and still are, in many ways," Cuomo said.
HOSPITALIZATIONS BELOW 10,000
Fewer than 10,000 people in the state were hospitalized Saturday with coronavirus in New York, the lowest tally since the third week of March, Cuomo said.
Hospitalizations peaked at 18,825 on April 12 and fell to almost half that — 9,786 — on Saturday.
More than 19,100 people in the state have died from coronavirus, though the total doesn't include more than 5,300 deaths in the city that were attributed to the virus on death certificates but weren't confirmed by a lab test.
On Saturday, 280 people died from the disease, the lowest daily total since March 29, when there were 253 fatalities. The state peaked with 799 deaths in one day on April 9.
"The overall direction is good, even though it is very painful," Cuomo said.
SUNSHINE AND SOCIAL DISTANCING
Tens of thousands of people flocked to New York City's parks and public spaces Saturday as temperatures hit the low-70s (about 23 degrees Celsius), and for the most part they complied with social distancing rules.
"The big story here is what New Yorkers have done right," de Blasio said.
Officers issued 51 summonses, including 43 in parks, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said. There were at least three arrests.
About 1,000 police officers were out on foot, bicycles, in patrol cars and even on horseback to enforce public health restrictions requiring people — as well as couples, families and other small groups living under the same roof — to keep 6 feet away from others.
Officers were also handing out face masks, which people are required to wear when social distancing is not possible, breaking up large gatherings and stopping people from playing team sports, which are still banned.
"The vast majority of New Yorkers have really risen to the challenge," de Blasio said, though he and Shea noted some overcrowding at places like Manhattan's Hudson River Park and Brooklyn's Domino Park.
At Astoria Park in Queens, police on Saturday seized six motorcycles, including two that were found to have been stolen, Shea said.
In Harlem, dozens of people crowded a blocked off street for a memorial to a 30-year-old father of three who was shot dead last week.
De Blasio said such large gatherings are a violation of city and state public health guidelines and "have to be stopped before they even get started."
"We have to get clear to people that no such events should be happening," de Blasio said. "When you start to attract large numbers of people, the chance of social distancing being maintained is minimal."