New Yorkers are paying dearly for several missteps by state leaders as they confront the coronavirus pandemic. Topping the list are newly-minted Democratic darling Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Less than a month ago the mayor resisted locking down the city, tweeting: “Since I’m encouraging New Yorkers to go on with your lives + get out on the town despite Coronavirus, I thought I would offer some suggestions. Here’s the first: thru Thurs 3/5 go see “The Traitor” @FilmLinc. If “The Wire” was a true story + set in Italy, it would be this film.” He also refused to close public schools for days as teachers and city leaders protested.
Just a couple weeks later he was forced to appeal to President Donald Trump on NBC’s Meet the Press for ventilators, hospital beds, face masks, gowns, and other supplies as his city struggled to contain the outbreak.
“The president of the United States is from New York City, and he will not lift a finger to help his hometown, and I don’t get it,” de Blasio said on Meet the Press last month.
“I can’t be blunt enough. If the president doesn’t act, people will die who could have lived otherwise,” he said.
Cuomo announced Wednesday that in New York City alone 1,139 people have died from coronavirus, with 43 dying overnight, and 47,439 cases diagnosed. Statewide 83,712 confirmed coronavirus cases were recorded and 1,941 people have died.
He issued an executive order last week banning the average patient from using hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine while people across the state die in droves. He limited prescriptions to COVID-19 patients in state-approved clinical trials, and for FDA-approved uses as an antimalarial or autoimmune treatment, and then only for a 14-day supply with no refills.
Both drugs have been used safely since the 1940s to treat malaria and autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors from China and France have conducted small studies and reported that hydroxychloroquine seems to help patients with coronavirus.
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University told The New York Times that findings from a new study in China, made available this week, drew the same conclusion.
“I think it will reinforce the inclination of many people across the country who are not in a position to enter their patients into clinical trials but have already begun using hydroxychloroquine,” he said.
Cuomo issued an executive order stating that, “No pharmacist shall dispense hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine except when written as prescribed for an FDA-approved indication; or as part of a state approved clinical trial related to COVID-19 for a patient who has tested positive for COVID-19, with such test result documented as part of the prescription. No other experimental or prophylactic use shall be permitted, and any permitted prescription is limited to one fourteen-day prescription with no refills.”
The drugs have become political fodder after the president used his bully pulpit to promote them. He cut red tape at the FDA so the drugs could be approved for emergency use to save lives and bring hope to Americans living through this apocalyptic pandemic.
Doctors have also spoken publicly about the state’s desperate need for ventilators. City paramedic Megan Pfeiffer told The New York Post Tuesday, “It’s like battlefield triage right now. We’re pretty much bringing patients to the hospital to die.”
She recalled transporting a patient in cardiac arrest to New York-Presbyterian Queens hospital in Flushing who was immediately admitted and put on the last ventilator available in the intensive care unit.
A report produced by the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law and the New York State Department of Health in 2015 concluded that concluded that if a severe influenza pandemic hit, there would likely be a shortfall of 15,783 ventilators at peak demand. The report noted that “there are no current plans to buy enough ventilators for the most severe model.”
The federal government has already sent 400 ventilators and promised New York state 4,400 more, with 2,400 heading to New York City. Yet Cuomo confirmed at a press conference Tuesday that New York had not even deployed all the state’s available ventilators.
“They’re in a stockpile. Yes, they’re in a stockpile because that’s where the supposed to be because we don’t need them yet. We need them for the apex. The apex isn’t here, so we’re gathering them in the stockpile so when we need them they will be there. We don’t need them today because we’re not at capacity today. That’s why they’re not deployed because they’re not needed.”
Hopefully the governor will rethink some of these critical decisions with the understanding that extraordinary times may require extraordinary measures.