Seven northeastern states are joining forces to fight the coronavirus outbreak and pooling their resources to purchase essential medical equipment and testing supplies, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday. Prices for ventilators have skyrocketed amid widespread need for the potentially life-saving devices, which Cuomo has attributed to a bidding war between states currently facing shortages.
“The consortium, I think, will help us get the equipment and get it at a better price,” Cuomo said at a weekend press briefing.
The member states—New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts—spend roughly $US5 ($8) billion per year on medical supplies, he continued, and by combining their resources they hope to better compete in the international market. In particular, the consortium will focus on securing personal protective equipment, coronavirus tests, and ventilators amid other medical equipment. Part of their mission is to better prepare the region for potential future outbreaks in hopes of preventing these kinds of dire shortages from happening again.
“This will increase our market power and help prevent price-gouging,” Cuomo tweeted Sunday. “States are stronger when we work together.”
According to a recent Pro Publica report, New York’s desperation for medical equipment has resulted in price gouges as much as 15 to 20 times the usual cost for basic hospital supplies like gloves and masks. And given the lack of a coordinated purchasing effort at the federal level and the president’s repeated refusal to believe that the shortages even exist, New York along with many other states have essentially been left to secure these supplies on their own until now. Several have turned to international marketplaces, private sector contributions, and donations from other countries.
This consortium also aims to beef up the region’s existing infrastructure for getting tested, as widespread shortages of testing kits and other related supplies has crippled response efforts in many states.
“We really need to work together to build the capacity to test, or we’re not going to be able to give our citizens the confidence they need to go back to work,” said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf at Sunday’s briefing. “They’re not going to have the confidence to go back to school, or back to the store, or back to worship.”