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More of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s history with keeping his city prepared for disaster has been coming to light recently. Since the current crisis deals with the pandemic that has now killed more people than the 9/11 attacks, some are asking why there weren’t more preparations in place to deal with something like this. As it turns out, there were people in the Big Apple who did see the possibility of a pandemic striking and they had a good idea of what to do about it in advance.
Way back in 2006, when yet another wave of a unique flu virus was sweeping through Asia, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered a study of the situation and decided to take action. He launched an initiative to prepare New York for such an epidemic and stock up medical supplies as a bulwark against shortfalls the city’s hospitals were predicted to experience. He requested millions of medical facemasks and a stockpile of “between 2,036 and 9,454 ventilators” in anticipation of a worst-case scenario.
Unfortunately, this was happening just as the economy was beginning to tank and they only managed to acquire roughly 500 of the requested ventilators. After that, budget cuts forced most of the rest of the pandemic preparations to be tabled. But hey… at least they got 500 ventilators. That’s got to at least help a bit, right? Nope. As Pro Publica reports this week, some years later when Bill de Blasio had taken over, most of the ventilators had broken down. So the city got rid of them.
In the end, the alarming predictions failed to spur action. In the months that followed, the city acquired just 500 additional ventilators as the effort to create a larger stockpile fizzled amid budget cuts.
Even those extra ventilators are long gone, the health department said on Sunday. The lifesaving devices broke down over time and were auctioned off by the city at least five years ago because the agency couldn’t afford to maintain them.
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