Trump Cries “Nationalization”; Cuomo Volleys Back “So What?”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks in New York
Governor Andrew Cuomo visits the the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, which will be partially converted into a hospital for patients suffering from coronavirus infection, on March 23.
Reuters/ Mike Segar

Governor Andrew Cuomo brushed off arguments against President Donald Trump’s use of the Defense Production Act to produce ventilators and personal protective equipment to fight the COVID-19 epidemic.

In his Monday update to the public — during which he reported progress in goals toward increasing hospital capacity for New Yorkers — the governor said that not only would companies get paid “handsomely” for producing the hardware necessary to get society back on track, but that politics should also be put aside in times of crisis.

“Let the federal government put in place the federal Defense Production Act,” Cuomo said. “It does not nationalize any industry. All it does is say to a factory ‘you must produce this quantity.’ I get that a lot of companies are stepping up and doing good things… but you can’t run this operation like that… Yes, it is an assertion of government power on private sector companies. Yes — but so what? This is an emergency.”

As of Monday, the state has tested more than any other in the country, ramping up since March 13 to 16,000 tests per day. While most of these have been downstate, Cuomo said that this is because the majority of cases are in New York City. South Korea has been recognized as a leader in containing the crisis through employment of widespread testing — administering roughly 20,000 tests per day in a nation of just over 50 million.

The governor also expressed chagrin on Sunday about the failure of many New York City residents to abide by social distance guidelines, especially in the parks and streets of Manhattan.

“I told New York City yesterday I want a plan on how they’re going to control and reduce the density, I said I wanted the plan today and I want the state to approve the plan. It has to focus on young people and the gathering of young people,” Cuomo said. “If New York City needs legislation to enact their plan once we approve it, I would ask New York City to pass the legislation quickly. If they have a problem passing legislation, they should let me know.”

About 13 percent of coronavirus patients are being hospitalized as accounted for since the onset of community spread in New York, which Cuomo said is a “good number” compared to previous estimates ranging in the 20s. Of the hospitalizations, Cuomo said 24 percent require intensive care.

Cuomo’s goal for increasing hospital capacity from 53,000 to at least 110,000 beds still stands, with the aim of turning several locations such as the Javits Center into temporary medical centers. But the need for ICU beds remains dire, with only 3,000 and the Cuomo administration estimating a need for between 18,000 and 37,000.

Over the weekend, Cuomo stated that there were about 6,000 ventilators on order.