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Cuomo warns against dependence on China for PPE

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during his daily press briefing on May 1, 2020 in Albany, New York.

Stefani Reynolds | Getty Images

New York will require all hospitals to build a 90-day supply of personal protective equipment to prepare for another outbreak after states dealt with widespread equipment shortages while battling the coronavirus, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Sunday.

Cuomo said efforts to procure masks from China amid state competition for medical supplies were “inefficient and ineffective” and warned against dependence on China for basic equipment. 

“That we have to go to China for the PPE? I mean think about that — you couldn’t even get it in this nation,” Cuomo said at a press briefing. “We started making our own in this state.” 

“That’s a national security issue to me,” Cuomo said. “You have to be able to get masks and gowns and whatever medical equipment you need so this nation can run a health-care system in the middle of an emergency.”

“You can’t be dependent on China to have the basic equipment to save lives in the United States, that’s what this came down to,” the governor said.

Cuomo expressed frustration that the states of Massachusetts and New York had to rely on New England Patriots owner and billionaire businessman Robert Kraft to send a private plane to China to help procure masks.

“That’s how we handle a global pandemic? I have to call Mr. Kraft and say can you do me a favor Gov. Baker, as long as the plane is going can you pick up masks for me?” Cuomo asked rhetorically. 

In response, New York is a launching a regional buying consortium with six Northeast states to procure PPE, tests, ventilators and other medical equipment to reduce competition among states and lower prices. 

“We put together a de facto public health system,” the governor said. “We can’t go through this day to day in this mad scramble to move masks to where they were needed.” 

High competition among states, private entities and the federal government have hindered efforts to fight the virus and drove up prices of vital healthcare equipment, the governor said.  

The governors of New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware joined Cuomo’s press conference to discuss how joining equipment orders will help drive down overall equipment prices.

“The notion of coordinating together as a region makes an enormous amount of sense,” Gov. Philip Murphy said. “Sign New Jersey up.”

Massachusetts and Rhode Island will also be included in the purchasing plan. All seven Northeast states have planned to coordinate their re-openings. 

“There are a lot of businesses within our own states that if they knew they had that kind of purchasing that they were looking at, that they would either adapt their businesses or grow their business so we can buy from them,” Cuomo said. 

“We would control our own destiny rather than everyone trying to figure out how to buy from China,” he added.  

The governor said that 280 more people have died from the virus in New York, a decline after a slight increase in the previous period. There were 789 new coronavirus cases reported in the state and 9,786 people were hospitalized as of Saturday. 

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