New York City is building its own strategic reserve of medical equipment for the coronavirus pandemic, including surgical gowns, test kits and ventilators because "we can't depend on the federal government," Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.
"It is a very sobering, telling moment when I have to sit here before you and say that New York City needs its own strategic reserve because we can't depend on the federal government at this point," he said at a news briefing. "It's sobering as all hell. I mean it's just not something I'm happy to tell you, but it is really, really clear."
The New York City Economic Development Corp. will coordinate with health-care leaders in the city to build the reserve, de Blasio said. He said the stockpile will be filled with locally produced face shields, surgical gowns, test kits and ventilators and the city will also buy equipment from elsewhere as needed.
"We New Yorkers will take care of ourselves," he said. "We have learned the hard way that we cannot depend on the federal government in the future ... We certainly cannot depend on the global market."
De Blasio also recognized a team of New York-based companies, Boyce Technologies, 10XBeta and New Lab, which partnered to produce and manufacture the new "Bridge" ventilator, which can help patients with less severe respiratory symptoms. De Blasio said the ventilator will help hospitals save their scarce supply of standard ventilators for the patients who need it most.
New York City has placed a $10 million order for 3,000 of the ventilators, de Blasio said, adding that the ventilators are a fraction of the price of standard ventilators.
"This means that we have a ready reserve in the event that this crisis continues or, God forbid, that this disease becomes stronger," de Blasio said. "It means we're in a position to protect ourselves and to help others who may need our help."
As the coronavirus pandemic spread, state, local and federal officials, including President Donald Trump and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, lamented the U.S. medical supply chain's dependence on China and other foreign countries. With ventilators, N95 masks and gloves in short supply, the Trump administration has invoked the Defense Production Act to boost U.S. manufacturing of such equipment.
The pandemic has raised questions about the weakness of the U.S. supply chain in a global emergency.
"In the beginning of March as this was going we thought our supply chain was holding. We also thought federal aid would be consistent," de Blasio said Tuesday. "It was really as we got into the third week in March that it became abundantly clear that something was getting worse and worse."
A number of New York City firms have already started to produce personal protective equipment for health workers, de Blasio said last week. He said eight firms in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn Army Terminal and Manhattan are manufacturing face shields now and aim to produce 620,000 per week eventually. He added that five firms in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens are now making gowns.