New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is under fire for not releasing important statistics about the city’s health care capabilities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even as the New York Democrat declared that he believes “over half” of the City’s residents will end up infected by the coronavirus, his administration has not released vital information including neighborhood outbreak numbers and the capacities of both city hospitals and morgues.
“New Yorkers deserve full transparency from our city government at a time like this,” said Brooklyn Democrat Councilman Chaim Deutsch said, according to the New York Post. “This is a pandemic of epic proportions, and we can’t even get a basic breakdown of cases within NYC.”
Out of the state totals reaching over 39,000 as of Friday, more than 23,000 of them were confirmed to be in New York City, which has already reported the deaths of over 365 people.
“I think my job is to tell you the things that we’re going to confront, including some things that are difficult to hear, but to brace New Yorkers for the reality,” de Blasio had said, promising transparency about the pandemic.
But asked about numbers being reported by FEMA, the mayor said on Wednesday, “I am not going to get into details that are ever-changing.”
Officials would not give statistics for the number of critical care beds that are available, with figures showing that 840 patients are in intensive care beds. The city’s public and private hospitals have a combined 1,442 ICU beds, according to a state database that was last updated in January, according to The Post.
Dr. Mitchell Katz, president and CEO of New York City-based NYC Health + Hospitals, maintained that hospital beds can generally be turned into critical care beds but would not give a number of how many had been changed this way.
At a press briefing on Wednesday, de Blasio was asked about a recent Politico report which claimed some morgues at city hospitals had already reached capacity.
“The facts, as I have heard them from folks in my administration, are that we have capacity right now,” de Blasio replied.
The New York Post reported:
City Hall only provides a borough-wide breakdown of COVID-19 cases and has resisted giving New Yorkers closer view by neighborhood or zip code even though other places like Nassau County publish detailed maps.
City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said a more detailed breakdown wouldn’t make sense in the city because “we have hotspots all over the place.”
But de Blasio’s office has shared other statistics which are continuously being changed, such as the number of hospitalizations, confirmed cases, and the death toll.
“The mayor, Dr. Katz, Dr. Barbot and the rest of our healthcare professionals are working tirelessly to build out the capacity of our hospitals and morgues,” Press Secretary Freddi Goldstein said in defense of the mayor. That’s what matters, not how many we have of any given thing at this very hour on this very day.”
“Everyone is struggling to make sense of this evolving picture,” Dr. Michael Augenbraun, director of the infectious diseases division at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in central Brooklyn, told ProPublica.
“I think it would be useful to us in the hospitals to get a detailed situational appraisal, to know how much of the burden we are confronting,” he added.
The mayor shared a grim outlook for the city’s immediate future during an interview with George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America.”
“I can tell you, right now, we have enough supplies to get through this week and next week in our hospitals. That’s all I can guarantee you. And after that, unfortunately, we think this crisis is going to grow, through April into May. That’s the truth,” he said.
“When the president says the state of New York doesn’t need 30,000 ventilators,” De Blasio said. “With all due respect to him, he’s not looking at the facts of this astronomical growth of this crisis… We believe over half the people in this city will ultimately be infected. Over half.”
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