As a second wave of COVID-19 threatens to overrun New York City's healthcare system, the de Blasio administration on Wednesday announced it had acquired $900 million worth of personal protective equipment to provide hospitals in the event of shortages. But some items on the city's PPE arsenal still remain low.
"A second wave is at our doorstep, and we're taking zero chances on preparedness," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. "New York City has stepped up so our frontline heroes and healthcare workers will have what they need to save lives.”
The current stockpile includes:
- 45,729,651 isolation gowns
- 58,058,000 surgical masks
- 9,356,480 N95 masks
- 5,855,068 face shields
- 30,413,300 nitrate gloves
- 948,050 goggles
The de Blasio administration said the items were purchased as part of a voluntary effort to establish a 90-day stockpile of PPE, serving as backup for hospitals who must maintain a 90-day supply for PPE. Hospitals were given a deadline of September 30th by the state health department to have the supply on hand.
But even as the pandemic intensifies, hospitals appear to be slightly underprepared. A report by THE CITY revealed that some hospitals are struggling to maintain their own supply, and have missed the deadline to ensure their PPE stockpiles add up to three months.
And despite the volume of PPE presented, the city's reserve remains insufficient, according to Manhattan City Councilmember Ben Kallos, who chairs the council's contracts committee.
"Mayor de Blasio needs to be honest with New Yorkers about the status of our stockpile," Kallos told Gothamist/WNYC. "I'm just upset that they put this out without putting it in the context of what their goal is."
Kallos said that an administrator with the city Health Department testified at a City Council hearing last month that 13.5 million N95 masks are needed to keep the supply from running out.
"They're claiming victory with 9.3 million masks, which is only enough for 60 days when we know we faced shortages last time," Kallos said.
Back in the spring, when COVID-19 first gripped the city, hospitals came up short in providing enough PPE. In some cases, hospital workers were forced to ration their masks and gowns as the city faced a weakened supply chain. On social media, images surfaced of hospital staff forced to improvise, re-using masks or donning garbage bags in an attempt to preserve their gowns. After one nurse at Mount Sinai died, co-workers and family blamed his death on a shortage of protective gear.
A health care worker using a garbage bag as Personal Protective equipment at a prominent NYC emergency room during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Around the peak of the crisis on March 30th, more than 1,800 people were admitted in one day for suspected COVID-19, creating high demand for PPE, which workers must replace each time they treat individual patients. These days, the number of those newly hospitalized is around 90 people a day in NYC, and gradually increasing.
"As we're heading into wave two, we're still not there yet," Kallos said, adding that health experts have recommended that elastomeric N95 respirators—which reduce the potential for physical scarring compared to other N95 masks—are needed most.
The city maintains it will have enough supplies, including N95 masks and face shields, by the end of the year.
“The federal government failed the people of New York City last spring," Avery Cohen, a spokesperson for de Blasio, said. "That’s why we’re taking zero chances on preparedness so our healthcare workers and frontline heroes have what they need to save lives.”