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Legislature’s Wydysh concerned, wants plan before Niagara County gives ventilators to Albany after governor’s executive order

Legislature’s Wydysh concerned, wants plan before Niagara County gives ventilators to Albany after governor’s executive order

by Joseph KisselApril 3, 2020

Friday afternoon, Niagara County Legislature chairwoman Rebecca Wydysh delivered a COVID-19 update that started with a direct appeal to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Wydysh: “The governor mentioned that he’s going to sign an executive order that would require upstate areas such as ours to send unused ventilators down to the downstate area because they have an immediate need for those ventilators as their numbers are so high and they are seeing those surges and peaks that we know are coming for us in the future.”

“Very concerning to me. I implore the governor on behalf of this legislature and our residents to really come up with a plan to roll that out. We understand right now there are residents downstate in need and those lives are valuable. We understand that if we have ventilators that aren’t being used that can be utilized to save a life we want to do that.”

Although multiple media outlets are reporting Cuomo has already signed the executive order, Legislator Dennis Virtuoso said — as far as he knows — the governor has not signed it, and currently there’s no knowledge of what’s in it. “He (Cuomo) said in his press conference he would only take 20% that are not being used,” Virtuoso said. “We only have 15 in the county so you’re talking about one or two.”

Speaking to Niagara County Health Department Director Daniel Stapleton on Friday evening, he said the county does not track the number of ventilators in its borders. Stapleton said the county also does not have enough “PPE” (Personal Protective Equipment), which includes masks, gloves and face shields.

“But we’ve heard the governor say day in and day out that it’s impossible to tell when that surge or peak is going to happen in your community,” Wydysh said during the address. “He has models that he uses and still doesn’t know the exact time it will hit. Just as we don’t here. So governor, there was a question asked today what happens in two or three days or a week form now if we need those ventilators back? If we are starting to see those surges and peaks and we have our own residents in distress that need those ventilators? And he didn’t really answer the question for us. And again, we need to see that plan,” Wydysh said.

“We can’t buy new ventilators if you decide to give us money instead of our own ventilators back. That’s why you’re wanting to use ours because you can’t buy them yourself. Again, we value the residents of downstate New York just as much as we do ours. But we can’t put ours in jeopardy. And no amount of money that you can give us for a ventilator that you borrowed is going to bring back a life that is lost here in Western New York.”

“So while we understand the idea to utilize services and equipment in areas that are being hardest hit, we need to hear the plan how of how you are going to ensure us that we will have that equipment back when we have the need ourselves and our residents are going through that crisis before you take a single ventilator. Please let us know what that plan is and how you expect to handle that situation before you take away the services and equipment we need here in the coming days as well.”

New York state remains the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States with at least 102,863 positive cases. New York City is the worst-hit part of the state, with 1,562 deaths.

Niagara County, meanwhile, has more than 100 cases and no deaths.

Stapleton said that the Health Department’s main task currently is managing the number of patients that are positive. “The initial process is very time intensive,” Stapleton said, with daily follow-ups and determining contacts in the community.

Stapleton gave simple advice as to what you can do: Stay home and don’t add to the numbers.

“You shouldn’t go to any stores. Unless you need food, you should stay home.”

Becky Wydysh, who represents Lewiston, at the Niagara County Legislature on Jan. 9, her first night as chairwoman.

About The Author
Joseph Kissel
Joseph Kissel is a journalist, editor and photographer. He is also the Vice President of the New York Coalition for Open Government, a non-partisan, non-profit group that advocates for transparency and the public's right to freedom of information.