ALBANY, N.Y. — A dozen prominent Republicans are attacking New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to seize medical equipment from upstate facilities and send it to downstate hospitals.
“[W]e have an increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths in other parts of New York,” the Republicans said in a statement distributed by Rep. Tom Reed’s office. “Taking our ventilators by force leaves our people without protection and our hospitals unable to save lives today or respond to a coming surge. We stand together opposing the Governor’s very dangerous and reckless action. He is leaving our communities in a terrible position which will cost lives.”
Most Republicans have previously been relatively muted in their comments on Cuomo’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. A recent Siena poll found that 75 percent of self-identified conservatives approve of the job he’s done handling the pandemic, a number not that far off from the 79 percent who approved of President Donald Trump’s handling.
But there are always tensions between upstate and downstate lying near the surface of New York politics, with numerous upstaters believing their region is shortchanged by politicians from the city. In the first weeks of the crisis, there has been some grumbling that upstate cities are being slighted on items like tests, though it hasn’t been deafening due to the universal agreement that New York City is the epicenter or the pandemic.
As the virus spreads elsewhere, it’s a safe assumption that there will more regularly be backlash against decisions like the one Cuomo made on Friday, regardless of how many net lives the triaging of equipment ultimately saves. Some of the people who have grumbled in the past will certainly get louder.
“If I was an upstate New York sheriff, I would immediately put every ventilator and all the medical supplies in my county under armed guard,” conservative Rochester radio host Bob Lonsberry tweeted Friday afternoon. “In another era among a freer people, Andy’s theft of the medical supplies necessary to save our people would be met with forcible resistance.”
Cuomo said the medical supplies that would be redistributed would come from places such as “who are not dealing with Covid” and “are seeing very low activity.”
“In addressing the coronavirus pandemic, it is essential that we all work together,” Cuomo adviser Rich Azzopardi said. “Ventilators literally save lives. They will be returned or reimbursed to those hospitals. Moreover, when the pandemic wave hits upstate New York, the governor will ask downstate hospitals for similar help. We are not upstate or downstate, we are one state and we act that way.”
In addition to Reed, the statement was signed by Rep. Elise Stefanik; state Sens. Rob Ortt, George Borrello, Chris Jacobs, Pamela Helming, Rich Funke and Fred Akshar; and members of the Assembly Phil Palmesano, Christopher Friend, Andy Goodell and Marjorie Byrnes.