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Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., claimed victory Tuesday after raising objections to a plan by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo that would have used the state's National Guard to take 20 percent of unused ventilators and other medical equipment in upstate New York and bring them to areas downstate that had been harder hit by the coronavirus.
Cuomo announced the idea during his daily press briefing on Friday, saying he planned to sign an executive order to "allow the state to redistribute these ventilators from institutions that don't need them now and send them to hospitals in other parts of the state that do need them." The order would be executed by the National Guard. The Democratic governor further clarified some of the details, including the 20 percent number, during his Saturday press briefing.
Stefanik immediately raised objections to the prospective order, saying that she and "Upstate colleagues on BOTH sides of the aisle" opposed the order, even minting the hashtag #UpstateLivesMatter. Stefanik represents New York's 21st Congressional District, which encompasses the far-north reaches of the state.
When Cuomo issued his order Tuesday, however, Stefanik was quick to point out discrepancies between what Cuomo had previously said of the order and its actual substance.
"After widespread bipartisan opposition from Democratic and Republican elected officials ... I am pleased that Governor Cuomo significantly walked back New York’s misguided Friday announcement to send the National Guard to take 20% of unused PPE and ventilators from Upstate to Downstate," Stefanik said in a Tuesday statement.
She continued: "In the Executive Order issued today, there is no longer a 20% requirement, it was written as ‘may’ and not ‘shall,’ and will not be managed by the National Guard and instead coordinated by the Department of Health working with the support of the Hospital Association of New York State."
Cuomo's executive order from Tuesday lays out exactly what supplies the state will be shifting to harder-hit areas downstate, including New York City, which has seen nearly 80,000 total cases and over 4,000 deaths from the coronavirus. But as Stefanik noted, it does not include a 20 percent requirement.
"Any medical equipment (personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, respirators, bi-pap, anesthesia, or other necessary equipment)" will be reported to the state Department of Heath (DOH), the order says.
"DOH may shift any such items not currently needed, or needed in the short term future by a health care facility, to be transferred to a facility in urgent need of such inventory, for purposes of ensuring New York hospitals, facilities and health care workers have the resources necessary to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and distribute them where there is an immediate need," it continues.
Cuomo's Tuesday order also extended previous executive orders, allowed medical students graduating in 2020 to practice in the state and keeps public schools closed until at least April 29, among other things.
Stefanik has seen her profile rise quickly within the Republican Party after she was one of President Trump's most vocal supporters during the House impeachment proceedings last fall.
Earlier this year, she was named an honorary New York State chair for President Trump's reelection campaign.