The lack planning for a pandemic, weak resource management, inadequate data collection, expired stockpiles of PPE, and more left the City unprepared to protect its residents against COVID-19, a new report by Comptroller Scott Stringer found.
The report is on the ongoing investigation into the City’s planning and preparation for and response to the COVID-19 pandemic – an investigation that has been hampered by the City’s refusal to hand over required documents — and it describes ways in which the City’s initial response to COVID-19 was hampered by a lack of planning, coordination, and preparedness across City government.
“The COVID-19 pandemic threw our city into crisis, upending lives and livelihoods and exacerbating longstanding inequities in our most vulnerable communities. We lost 35,000 of our neighbors and loved ones, 900,000 jobs, and thousands of businesses,” Stringer said.
“We will never forget who and what we lost, and we cannot erase the mistakes of the past. But we can make sure we are better prepared for future emergencies and the next pandemic.”
He said the investigation showed weaknesses in planning and preparation and failures to promptly make decisions “when time was of the essence and every minute counted.”
The investigation has so far found that there was no citywide operational plan for responding to a pandemic and there were delays to developing a citywide operational plan for a moderate to severe COVID-19 outbreak. It also found the city lacked critical information about key resources, including the number of available hospital beds in City hospitals and the amount of usable personal protective equipment in City stockpiles.
The investigation further found that New York City Emergency Management (NYCEM) was inadequately performed its planning and response role, “raising questions about its capabilities, capacity and resources.”
The report released by Stringer outlines recommendations to help the City to improve its ongoing response to the pandemic and to better prepare for future public health emergencies.
“As the pandemic continues to rage across the country and around the world, we must take stock of what we’ve learned. That means making sure we have a complete citywide operational plan in place for the next emergency, ensuring we have sufficient supplies and equipment, and guaranteeing our City agencies are coordinated and unified,” Stringer said.
The report recommends the City complete its citywide operational plan for future pandemics; develop and update citywide operational plans for other emergencies; identify and maintain stockpiles of critical supplies; improve collection and dissemination of information related to critical resources; and review NYCEM’s capability to coordinate and support emergency responses.
In November 2020, Stringer took court action to force the City to comply with his investigation into the its preparedness for and response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was upheld by the Supreme Court and then an Appellate Court. The investigation is still ongoing.
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