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Sunday, April 5, 2020

Ventilator blues, or assailing the Father Governor

"Hey Andrew Cuomo keep your hands off our ventilators!" (Photo by Dan Barton)

You know how it is: Everybody in this crisis is pulling together, until they aren't anymore. Just received this press release from Antonio Delgado's office:

KINGSTON, NY—Today, U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado (NY-19), Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus, NYS Senator George Amedore S46, Senator Jen Metzger S42, Senator Sue Serino S41, Assemblymember Kevin Cahill AD103, and Assemblymember Chris Tague AD102 released the following statement in response to Governor Cuomo’s executive order to move ventilators from upstate hospitals:

“We are aware of plans to shift ventilators from our upstate communities and are gravely concerned. Health care access in rural communities has long been under strain, and we know the apex of cases in upstate is around the corner. We stand ready to help our fellow New Yorkers, but moving needed ventilators from our region now would be devastating and counter intuitive to all data on the spread of COVID-19. We will continue to work together to do everything in our power to make sure folks in our region have every single thing they need to get through this health crisis.”


One of the truest things I remember hearing in college is Alan Chartock describing politics as "the authoritative allocation of resources." (I think he's still saying this but has dropped the "authoritative" part.) "Authoritative" in this case means Father Governor can order the National Guard to come take shit from people who do not think it's a very good idea at all to give said shit up.

UPDATE: Politics being "the authoritative allocation of scarce resources" is partially derived from the work of political scientist David Easton, but what he really wrote, in his 1953 work "The Political System: An Inquiry into the State of Political Science" was "Political science is the study of the authoritative allocation of values for a society."

At Sunday's briefing, the governor was asked about the ventilator shifts and opined upon it at length. Here's much of what he had to say - notably, the rush transcripts his office sends out are just his remarks, not the back-and-forth with reporters that take place after his remarks. It's a lot, but worth reading.

“The executive order … the concept here that people have to get is nobody can handle this alone. Nobody. The people of New York City cannot handle this alone, the people of Nassau can’t handle it alone, the people of Suffolk can’t handle it alone, the people of Westchester can’t handle it alone, people of Buffalo can’t handle it alone, people of Albany can’t handle it alone. Period. That is just a fact. This virus will overwhelm the resources of any single community. It’s also true nationwide. Our wisdom here in New York, our mental wisdom and our ethos is we’ll help one another. This surge flex, every day we sit there allocating among hospitals shifting gowns, shifting masks, shifting patients … that’s the only way we’re doing it, by shifting of those resources.

“We will come to a point where that wave will run right through the state and we’ll have to that for Albany, and Rochester and Syracuse and the North Country and the Hudson Valley — that is going to happen. And I guarantee the people of this state that as long as I’m governor of this state, we won’t lose a life if we can prevent it and we’re not going to lose a life because we didn’t share resources among ourselves. Anything anyone needs in Buffalo to fight this virus when it hits Buffalo, will be there. If it comes from Montauk Point and I have to get in the truck and drive it from Montauk Point to Buffalo, it will be there. That’s the way we’ve governed this state and that’s the way we’ve operated. That was our mentality post-9/11, that’s how this state’s operated for the past 10 years, and that’s how we’ll be going forward. Whatever any community needs, we will be there.

“Now I understand the fear — ‘what if I lend you my ventilator, what happens when I need the ventilator?’ — that was FDR and the garden hose, right? First of all smart is you don’t want your house to burn down so don’t let the neighbor’s house burn down. When the fire hits the neighbor’s house, it’s in your self-interest to put out the fire in the neighbor’s house. Not only is it the right community moral ethical thing, it’s the smart, practical thing. Why did Oregon send us a hundred ventilators? Because they’re very nice people, yes. Gov. Brown is a great leader. Why else? Because they see the fire spreading, and they say better we put out the fire before it gets to us. I’m sitting in New York right now and I see that fire coming up, I say let’s go put that fire out before it gets to us. But even if the fire gets to you, every hose in the state that can be sent to you because they don’t need it will be sent to you. And all we’re asking is for ventilators that you aren’t using now and you don’t foresee using in the foreseeable future.”

The governor went on to say that he has yet to take any of the 500 ventilators in Upstate in question but he does want to know where they are and how many are being used on a real-time basis, “if we need them.” He added that the ventilators are portable. “I don’t see any other operational model,” he said, other than moving equipment to the apex of need and then “redeploying” them to the next apex of need.

“We talk about the family of New York. I must have said that a million times,” the governor continued. “What does family of New York mean? Mutuality, cooperation, sharing, benefits and burdens. OK. This is the time the family has to come together. This is the time. Not just out of the spirit of love. Out of necessity. You cannot handle this without your brothers and sisters. You can’t.”

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