BUFFALO, NY (WBFO) – Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order mandating the collection of ventilators and personal protective equipment from some upstate hospitals for use downstate drew quick and critical response Friday from several Western New York lawmakers.
Cuomo announced his order during his Friday morning update on COVID-19 cases statewide. Among the numbers reported were more than 500 deaths in just one day.
One day after declaring the state had an estimated six days’ supply of available ventilators, he moved to order the National Guard to round up units, along with other available personal protective equipment, from hospitals not immediately using them for use in places where the need for such equipment is more urgent.
The Erie County Legislature Minority Caucus was quick to issue a statement criticizing the order. Minority Leader Joseph Lorigo told WBFO while the governor has done a “decent” job handling the overall crisis, the order to redistribute ventilators and PPE once again creates a downstate-versus-upstate division in a time when all of the state needs to be prepared.
“The concern is if our peak happens anytime in the next one to three weeks, and those ventilators and PPE are in New York City or Long Island, Erie County residents will be put at risk and possibly die because we don’t have the equipment here,” Lorigo said. “It’s completely irresponsible to seize this equipment from other parts of the state and leave us with none.”
State Senator Robert Ortt expressed a similar sentiment in his own written statement: “The governor’s executive order to seize ventilators from Upstate and Western New York hospitals and move them to New York City endangers the residents, healthcare professionals, and individuals currently experiencing complications due to the COVID-19 virus here in Western New York. As the virus spreads across New York, with cases in Upstate and Western New York on the rise, the confiscation of these stockpiles for shipment downstate will leave our healthcare system dangerously low when our apex arrives. Monetary reimbursements for these life-saving pieces of equipment will not do our healthcare professionals nor our residents any good if there are no ventilators or PPE available for purchase. I understand the current emergency facing the residents of New York City; however, the health and safety of Upstate and Western New York healthcare workers and residents are just as important as those living downstate.”
Lorigo, meanwhile, explained that the minority’s statement was issued in the interest of speed and that he would be quickly working the phones to bring the Democratic majority of the Legislature into consensus. He was asked if he would also reach out to County Executive Mark Poloncarz in advance of the latter’s daily briefing.
The county executive should be having the county attorney draft a lawsuit to sue the governor from doing this, right now,” Lorigo replied.