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States under fire for spending billions on little or never used COVID-19 preparations

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States that spent millions of dollars preparing for the doomsday predictions of coronavirus cases and deaths are now facing scrutiny over the use of taxpayers’ money.

Questions have begun arising over whether state and local governments are guilty of poor planning for the COVID-19 crisis or the consequences of the global pandemic could not be foreseen.


(Source: Fox News)

Despite the panic created when so-called experts touted models predicting the potential spread of the pandemic, causing states to demand federal emergency help and to scramble to secure medical equipment, much of the supplies and measures were hardly even utilized, according to a Fox News report.

“Just like the federal government, states were supposed to prepare for the pandemic. Most did not, and taxpayers are paying the price, ” Fox News’ Los Angeles-based correspondent William La Jeunesse reported Tuesday.

The Sacramento Kings organization was being paid $500,000 a month by the state of California to rent out its Natomas arena. The arena, which was reportedly sitting unused for years, was slated to be used as a field hospital amid the virus outbreak. California taxpayers would be footing the bill of half a million dollars a month, as well as paying the maintenance and utility fees for the facility, and for any staff needed from the organization.

While the move was touted as preparation to help offset the expected surge in hospitals, the 400-hospital bed space ended up treating only seven patients, according to La Jeunesse.

California spent $16 million to reopen St. Vincent Medical Center near downtown Los Angeles to serve patients that tested positive for COVID-19. But just 34 days later, the facility closed again, 92% empty despite models indicating that the 416 hospitals would be overwhelmed by the effects of the pandemic.

The Navy hospital ship Mercy, with 1,000 hospital beds and 750 medical crew members, was docked in Los Angeles to deal with the surge that never happened. In the end, the ship treated little more than 70 non-coronavirus patients, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In New York, La Jeunesse reported, “contractors got $270 million for one hospital that never opened and the other only saw a handful of patients.”

It cost $19.8 million to renovate a tennis center in Queens, turning it into a 350-bed facility. But it was shut down earlier this month after treating only 79 patients, KIRO-TV reported. The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal was transformed in to a temporary 670-bed hospital at the tune of $21 million. After opening in May, later than the planned date in the prior month, the field hospital also closed – never having treated one patient.

The costs for both of the New York hospitals was reportedly to be paid by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. New York’s other temporary facility was the hospital ship USNS Comfort which left the port in New York City at the end of April after having treated 182 patients, 70% of whom had the coronavirus.

Nearly $350 million was spent on other field hospitals in New York but all closed last month without seeing any patients, The Associated Press reported.

In Seattle, Washington, a field hospital prepared for the onslaught of coronavirus patients closed after only three days, having seen “zero patients,” according to La Jeunesse.

“Oklahoma is still paying $7,000 a day to keep open 240 hospital beds, just in case,” he said.

In addition to the temporary hospitals, California also leased more than 15,000 hotel rooms to protect the homeless population from the outbreak. But half of those remained empty and unused, and beds in shelters for coronavirus-positive patients remained 90% empty,  La Jeunesse reported, adding that the state paid more for personal protective equipment and ventilators than it would have normally, due to the shortage of supplies.

“Officials say, not needing this is a good thing, but models show that they had to prepare for the worst,” La Jeunesse concluded, saying the decisions to spend millions in panic rather than be prepared ahead of time indicates “either poor planning or the nature of a global pandemic nobody saw coming.”

 

Frieda Powers

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