NYC is short of medical supplies because somebody forgot to order them

Every time New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio goes on cable news to give an update on the coronavirus situation in his city, he unfailingly makes sure to get in a few jabs blaming Donald Trump for all of our woes. These performances stand in stark contrast to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who has managed to work closely with the White House and get a lot done. The current topic raising concerns in the city is the lack of medical supplies, including surgical masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. There aren’t enough to cover the anticipated patient load when the spread of the virus in Gotham finally peaks. So that must be President Trump’s fault, right?

It didn’t take long for the New York Post to poke a few holes in that trial balloon. A bit of digging through city records revealed that, despite knowing about the spread of the virus back in January, City Hall in New York didn’t put in their first order for additional masks and hand sanitizer until two weeks ago. As usual, bureaucratic red tape was blamed for the lack of planning.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has blamed President Trump for the city’s severe shortage of COVID-19 supplies even though City Hall didn’t put in its first order for emergency protective gear until March 6, The Post has learned.

City officials waited for over two months after the coronavirus outbreak first hit China to start emergency procurements of masks and hand sanitizer, putting in orders on March 6 and March 10, according to the city comptroller’s office.

“Our city is the epicenter of this outbreak in the United States, and we are lacking supplies because the mayor didn’t notice until two weeks ago?” fumed City Councilman Chaim Deutsch.

Amazingly, Bill de Blasio has managed to bungle the response to the spread of the virus badly enough that the spirit of bipartisanship seems to be creeping back into Big Apple politics. The person carping about the Mayor’s lack of foresight in the excerpt above, Councilman Chaim Deutsch, is a Democrat. He went on to cite, “a distinct lack of management on the part of this administration.”

Even after City Hall finally realized that maybe they needed to order more of these supplies, the process for placing the orders was bungled. The City Comptroller approved the payment for the masks and sanitizer the same day it was received. But it then took at least three days for the other approvals to be stamped. By that time, the supplier New York City normally uses for such orders had already run out. More delays ensued.

The Post goes on to report that the city has now ordered 25 million masks, 2 million bottles of sanitizer, 12,000 thermometers and 2,000 ventilators. But with everyone in the country scrambling to find these specific products, “turnaround times vary significantly.” (Gee… ya think?)

When can we expect the logjam to ease? 3M Corporation is a major manufacturer of the most sought-after masks and they just announced that they’ve ramped up production to a level of 1.1 billion per year globally, including 400 million in the United States. Designers of fashion apparel in California have switched over to producing masks and hospital gowns. People are really trying to help meet the need, but it’s going to take time. And even then, it’s going to require municipal administrators to actually remember to place orders for the products.

This article was edited to reflect that 3M will be producing 400 million masks in the United States annually. The original version incorrectly listed the figure as 400,000.