Cuomo Calls For National ‘Buying Consortium,’ Says He Hasn’t Discussed Quarantine With Trump

Topline: In a press conference on Saturday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo criticized the federal government for making states compete with each other to buy medical supplies and said that despite Trump’s claims to the contrary, he had not yet been informed about the president’s reported plan to quarantine the entire tri-state area.

  • “On purchasing, you can’t have a situation where 50 states are competing with each other to buy the same material—that is what is happening now,” Cuomo said during his press briefing. “We’re literally bidding up the prices ourselves.”
  • “It’s not even legally price gouging… this is just private market competition,” Cuomo, who has repeatedly urged for wider implementation of the Defense Production Act to mobilize more resources, said. “You can see the prices going up, literally, during the course of a day.”
  • Ventilators originally cost around $25,000 each, but because of increased competition among states all trying to outbid each other, prices have soared to around $45,000. The alternative would be to use a bag valve mask, which requires staff to operate it for a patient 24 hours a day, making it logistically difficult to rely on: “The short answer is no thank you,” Cuomo said.
  • States not only have to compete with each other, but also with the federal government when it goes to buy that same equipment for its stockpile, the New York governor described. “Now it’s 50 states competing against the states, and the federal government competing against the states.”
  • “This is not the way to do business, we need a nationwide buying consortium,” he urged, suggesting that either the Trump administration take the lead in purchasing, or states enter into a voluntary buying consortium of their own.
  • Cuomo also responded to criticism from Trump—who recently said on Fox News, “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.” New York “has no interest in inflating the number of ventilators that we actually need,” Cuomo said, while reiterating that the 30,000 requested are to prepare for the projected apex in the state’s coronavirus cases, which remains two to three weeks away.
  • “People say I advocate for more help for New York with the federal government and I ask for more things than other states are asking for,” Cuomo said. “Yes, respond to the need: We have 52,000 cases, California has 4,000 cases.”

Crucial quote: “This is something that needs to be worked out not just for this, but for the future, because this can’t happen again,” Cuomo said about the competition between states for purchasing medical supplies.

What to watch for: President Trump said on Saturday that his administration is considering an “enforceable quarantine” on New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut to combat the coronavirus, suggesting he’d discussed it with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo—who immediately denied he had. “I didn’t speak to him about any quarantine… I haven’t had those conversations, I don’t even know what that means,” Cuomo said when asked about the president’s remarks during his press conference.

Big number: 52,318. That’s the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New York, amounting to almost half of the national total so far. Almost 30,000 cases have been confirmed in New York City alone. The state has become by far and away the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S., facing a much greater caseload than in the next hardest-hit states, like New Jersey (8,825), California (4,914) and Washington (3,770). Cuomo said that the “worst news, the news that is most depressing to me and I’m sure to every New Yorker” on Saturday was that the death toll has jumped to 728, up from 519 a day earlier.

Surprising fact: Though the rate of infection in New York is still doubling, it is doing so at a slower pace, Cuomo said again on Saturday. The number of ICU admissions fell slightly, as did the number of new hospitalizations. ICU admissions were down to 172 yesterday—the lowest level since earlier this week and down from 374 a day before. Patients who have been newly hospitalized also decreased to 847, down from over 1,000 during the two days previously. “I wouldn’t put too much stock in any one number—the overall trend is still up, but you could argue that the trend is slowing,” Cuomo said of the data.

Tangent: In other news from Cuomo’s press conference, the governor announced that the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, an emergency treatment facility that was recently set up to increase hospital bed capacity, will open on Monday. Four new sites have been approved by the federal government, as well: the New York Expo Center in the Bronx, the Queens Aqueduct Racetrack, the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and the College of Staten Island.

Surprising fact: “If you’re feeling disorientated it’s not you,” Cuomo said at the start of his press conference, adding that he had to check his alarm clock to know it was Saturday.

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