Just like the federal government, New York City realized more than a decade ago that it wasn’t ready for a pandemic, started to prepare — then dropped the ball in favor of other priorities.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and everyone else trying to scapegoat the Trump administration, take note.
ProPublica broke the story of the city’s aborted preparations. Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg back in July 2006, the city put together a pandemic plan that included stockpiling now-much-needed ventilators and N95 masks.
Finding it could be short as many as 9,500 vents, the city set out to build a stockpile — but only acquired a few hundred, which it eventually auctioned off because maintenance costs were too high. Similarly, when its store of masks expired, it failed to replace them.
De Blasio has been regularly railing about how it’s the feds’ responsibility to get the city the ventilators it needs now. But back in 2006, as the city adopted its plan, Dr. Isaac Weisfuse, a Health Department honcho deeply involved in pandemic planning, warned: “We do understand that New York City will be responsible for New York City in terms of dealing with any pandemic.”
Lots of people foresaw the problems. President George W. Bush pushed through the first nationwide comprehensive pandemic plan in 2005. Parts of it survived and have formed the bones of this year’s emergency planning — but neither the Bush nor Obama teams followed up fully.
And New York state similarly saw the need for a vents stockpile — but didn’t build one.
The ProPublica piece gives de Blasio some support by suggesting that years of federal budget cuts explain the city’s failure to prepare. But its talk of “austerity” is absurd: New York City has been flush with tax dollars for the last decade, with an economy booming for the entire Blas era.
Under this mayor, the city budget has ballooned 26.4 percent — from $72.8 billion to $92 billion.
Our elected leaders at all levels chose to spend public money on things other than pandemic prep. Better to put your energy into dealing with it now, rather than playing phony, partisan blame games.
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