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Coronavirus

NY's Cuomo thanks China for sending 1,000 ventilators

States look for international help after struggling to access federal stockpiles

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, right, walks the corridor of a nearly completed makeshift hospital erected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York on March 27.   © AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York governor said Saturday the Chinese government was facilitating a shipment of 1,000 donated ventilators to his state, highlighting the extreme measures leaders are taking in what has become a cutthroat scramble to independently secure enough lifesaving devices during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a sign of the disorganized response to the global crisis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the Chinese government for its help in securing the shipment of the breathing machines that was scheduled to arrive at Kennedy Airport on Saturday, while saying the U.S. government’s stockpile of medical supplies would fall drastically short.

“We’re all in the same battle here,” Cuomo said, noting that the state of Oregon also volunteered to send 140 ventilators to New York. “And the battle is stopping the spread of the virus.”

The rush to secure supplies has prompted intense squabbling between the states and federal government at a moment the nation is facing one of its gravest emergencies. Leaders like Cuomo have been forced to go outside normal channels and work with authoritarian governments and private companies.

Trump said states are marking inflated requests for medical supplies when the need isn’t there and suggested he had a hand in the ventilator shipment arriving from China to New York. Trump also said he’d like to hear a more resounding “thank you” from Cuomo for providing medical supplies and helping quickly to add hospital capacity. Cuomo acknowledged he asked the White House and others for help negotiating the ventilators.

“We have given the governor of New York more than anybody has ever been given in a long time," Trump told reporters in Washington.

While the state of Massachusetts used the New England Patriots' team plane to pick up over a million masks from China, Russia has also sent medical equipment to the U.S. Meanwhile, Trump has said he'd prevent the export of N95 protective masks to Canada and other nations, prompting a rebuke from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said his country won’t bring retaliatory measures as it continues to ship gloves and testing kits to the U.S.

The number of people infected in the U.S. has exceeded 300,000, with the death toll climbing past 8,100; more than 3,500 of those deaths are in New York state, including more than 1,900 in New York City alone. In addition to getting ventilators from China and Oregon, Cuomo has issued an order that forces even private hospitals in the state to take breathing machines from hospitals and redistribute to those most in need.

“I want this all to be over,” Cuomo said. “It’s only gone on for 30 days since our first case. It feels like an entire lifetime.”

Trump said the federal government is setting up a 2,500-bed field hospital at New York's Javits Center, which will be staffed by the military. He said similar hospital projects are being built in Louisiana and Dallas.

“There will be a lot of death, unfortunately, but a lot less death than if this wasn't done," Trump said. He later added that the federal government is “a backup ... the greatest backup that ever existed for the states.”

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