Cuomo Labels U.S. Reliance on Chinese Medical Supplies ‘the Cruelest Irony’

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks in front of stacks of medical protective supplies during a news conference at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, which will be partially converted into a temporary hospital during the coronavirus outbreak, March 24, 2020. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo lamented on Thursday what he called the “cruelest irony,” that the U.S. is dependent on China for medical supplies as states groan under the toll of the coronavirus outbreak, which originated in China.

“It is the cruelest irony that this nation is now dependent on China for many of these products,” Cuomo said at his daily press briefing on the coronavirus in the state. “Gowns and gloves are not complicated components to manufacture.”

New York state now only has enough ventilators for six days, the governor said. The state released 400 ventilators to New York City last night and is considering how to maximize the supply, including by splitting ventilator tubes between patients as confidence flags in the federal government’s ability to provide them.

“I don’t think the federal government is in a position to provide ventilators to the extent the nation may need them,” Cuomo remarked, but assured that “all these extraordinary measures” will ensure that “if push comes to shove” the state will be in “fairly good shape.”

Cuomo urged businesses to manufacture medical equipment if they are able to do so, saying it could be a business opportunity and asking them to contact the state.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer this week expressed a similar criticism of American “over-dependence” on Chinese medical supply chains.

“Unfortunately, like others, we are learning in this crisis that over-dependence on other countries as a source of cheap medical products and supplies has created a strategic vulnerability to our economy,” Lighthizer said Monday.

New York has become the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S. with 92,381 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 2,373 deaths resulting from the respiratory infection, up from 1,941 just a day earlier and making up nearly half of the coronavirus deaths in the whole country. The state expects the number of cases and deaths to peak sometime between seven and 30 days from now.

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