After President Donald Trump referenced a Gateway Pundit article that claimed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo refused to buy new ventilators several years ago, the specialist who worked on the state’s health task force is explaining what the right-wing site (and the president) got wrong.
The Gateway Pundit headline that Trump read on Fox News said, “NY Gov. Cuomo Rejected Buying Recommended 16,000 Ventilators in 2015 for Pandemic, Established Death Panels and Lottery Instead.” The story cited a RealClearPolitics column that stated in 2015, Cuomo had a health task force “draft rules for rationing the ventilators they already had” instead of buying 16,000 new ventilators.” The author then criticized Cuomo for other ways he allocated money in 2015, including the purchase of solar panels.
Stu Sherman tells TheWrap that task force was called the Task Force on Life and the Law, created in the 1980s and led by Sherman starting in 2013. The column got its information from a report the task force published in 2015.
“The group was created to help the state with difficult medical/law questions around … pandemic and disaster response,” among other topics, he said via email.
Sherman added that the group put a report together to “answer the question about what to do in the event of a case surge that creates a situation where ventilators needed to be rationed. While the group looked at the possibility of stockpiling, it determined that in a case surge there would still likely not be enough ventilators or staff to use them. In reality, in my opinion, no government Task Force would be empowered to recommend the state spend 1/2 a billion dollars on something that there was no immediate need for.” Sherman noted that beyond New York, “every state and federal agency was aware of this risk, the federal government more than anyone.”
He said the task force worked on the report for nine years under multiple health commissioners and governors.
Cuomo’s office told TheWrap that Trump “obviously didn’t read” the original source of the information. The office called attention to the fact that the report is five years old and that it “never recommended the State procure ventilators – it merely referenced that New York wouldn’t be equipped with enough ventilators for a 1918 flu pandemic. No one is, including Mr. Trump.”
Sherman further explained that understanding the purpose of the report is what many people “get wrong;” it was not to make suggestions on preparing for a pandemic, it looked at what the reality of a pandemic would be for the state. He called it “a worst-case scenario document.”
“The hope is that we would never need to triage. But if we do, this is the most ethical way of doing it. I find it abhorrent that the only message a man who, mere days earlier when asked why celebrities and wealthy people were able to get tested before everyone, ‘That’s the story of life,’ would get out of this is that it can be used as a cudgel to attack an enemy,” Sherman said.