Gov. Cuomo authorizes seizure of ventilators if needed

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday he will order the redistribution of hundreds of ventilators to hospitals overwhelmed with critical coronavirus patients amid alarming increases in outbreak-related deaths and hospitalizations.

New York state tallied its biggest daily jump yet in deaths — up 562 to 2,935. Almost 15,000 people were hospitalized.

"You have more deaths, you have more people coming into hospitals than any other night," a weary sounding Cuomo told a state Capitol news briefing.

New York City hospitals are filling up with COVID-19 patients, and officials fear they will soon run out of breathing machines for intensive care patients. Cuomo said his executive order will allow the state to redeploy excess ventilators and protective equipment from hospitals and other institutions.

"I'm not going to let people die because we didn't redistribute ventilators," Cuomo said.

"I'm going to sign an executive order that says the state can take ventilators and PPE from institutions that don't need them now and redeploy them to other parts of the state and other hospitals that do need them. Those institutions will either get their ventilator back or they will be reimbursed and paid for their ventilator so they can buy a new ventilator.

— Gov. Andrew Cuomo

National Guard members will pick up ventilators across the state. Institutions that give up equipment will get it back or be reimbursed, he said.

The announcement from the Democratic governor quickly exposed geographic tensions within the state. A statement from Reps. Tom Reed, Elise Stefanik and other upstate New York Republicans called it "reckless" and said it "will cost lives."

"Taking our ventilators by force leaves our people without protection and our hospitals unable to save lives today or respond to a coming surge," Reed said.

The Greater New York Hospital Association, which represents over 160 hospitals and health systems around New York and in other states, said Cuomo was "pursuing lifesaving measures in real time during an unprecedented public health emergency."

"We know the door swings both ways — any institution that receives a ventilator will more than reciprocate when the virus peaks elsewhere," said GNYHA president Kenneth E. Raske in a prepared statement.