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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that he is deploying the National Guard to round up unused ventilators and personal protective equipment from across the state so they can be redistributed to hospitals on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak.
The move, which Cuomo is authorizing through an executive order, comes as COVID-19's death toll in New York jumped by 562 overnight to 2,935 – which is the “highest single increase in the number of deaths since we started,” he said.
“I understand they don’t want to give up their ventilators... I understand that even if they are not using them they are reluctant to see them go out the door – the theory if is the government gets them they will never get them back,” Cuomo told reporters Friday, describing how some hospitals and private sector companies are in possession of equipment that is sitting idle.
“But I’m not going to be in a position where people are dying and we have several hundred ventilators in our own state, somewhere else,” Cuomo added. “I apologize for the hardship to those institutions.”
Cuomo said facilities that have materials taken away will have the ventilators returned later – or be reimbursed so they can buy new equipment.
When asked if the executive order would stand up in court if hospitals decided to challenge it, Cuomo vowed it would.
“If they want to sue me for borrowing their excess ventilators to save lives, let them sue me,” he said.
The governor also revealed Friday that New York has been in talks with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba in hopes of securing more equipment.
Cuomo says he has spoken to Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma and president Mike Evans, who “have been personally gracious and very helpful in trying to get us to source material from China, but we are going to have to redeploy ventilators from across the system.”
As of Friday, New York has 102,863 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Cuomo had warned yesterday that at the current rate of infection, the state’s “central stockpile” of ventilators it can distribute would run out in less than a week.