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VERIFY: Debate over New York ventilator stockpile is taking quotes and images out of context

New York's governor is storing ventilators in a warehouse because they don't need them yet. He's requesting more in anticipation of the virus's peak down the road.

ALBANY, N.Y. —

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump have publicly sparred over the state’s request for ventilators as it fights the largest COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

Cuomo says New York needs 30,000 ventilators in their battle against the pandemic. Trump has pointed out that ventilators have been delivered, and are sitting in storage.

As a result of the spat, memes, videos and other social media posts have sprung up misrepresenting the situation, and many of them are targeting Cuomo.

Credit: VERIFY

The crux of these memes and videos is that New York is hoarding ventilators instead of distributing them to hospitals, exacerbating the problem and making it seem like they don’t have enough when they actually do.

However, the situation is a little more complex than that.

THE QUESTION

Is New York requesting more ventilators when they actually have all that they need hidden in a warehouse?

THE ANSWER

New York does have ventilators stored in a warehouse, and Cuomo has said they are there because hospitals don’t need them yet. That part is true.

However, the governor has requested more in anticipation of the virus' peak in a few weeks. His claim that the federal government hasn’t sent enough ventilators is based on what he anticipates New York will need in the near future -- not what it needs right now.

WHAT WE FOUND

Cuomo himself admitted that New York was stockpiling ventilators last week because they weren’t needed yet. He had made the comments in an interview with CNN. You can hear his remarks in this video below, between the :40 and 1:30 time marks.

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Right after saying they don’t need them yet he said, “The hospitals have enough ventilators today. But the numbers are going up. We’re planning for an apex, a high point in about 21 days. That’s when we need the 30,000 ventilators, not today. Right now we’re putting them in a stockpile. So the point is, well they’re in a stockpile, you must not need them. It’s just ignorant. Of course you don’t need them today. You need them when you hit the apex, which is 30,000. We’re not there yet.”

So, Cuomo said he is requesting more ventilators to have them ready to send to hospitals when they start running out. His claim that they don’t have enough is regarding what he anticipates the need will be in 21 days from March 27.

The warehouse photo above is real too, but the meme took the picture out of context. 

The photo was taken by Scott Lynch for The Gothamist, a news website run by New York Public Radio. It didn’t show thousands of ventilators hidden away from the public eye, instead the original caption for the photo said, “400 ventilators lined up at the NYC Emergency Management Warehouse in Brooklyn on March 24 that were set to be transported to hospitals.”

The photo was taken while New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was visiting the NYC Emergency Management Warehouse, so the storage of these ventilators there was hardly a secret.

BOTTOM LINE

Memes claiming that New York is lying about needing more ventilators while keeping the ones they have in storage misrepresent the situation.

New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, has acknowledged the state has been storing ventilators in warehouses and they don’t need them right this second.

However, his requests for more ventilators are for what he expects the state to need in the coming weeks as the COVID-19 outbreak affects more people.


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Credit: AP
Vincent Dellova, a coordinator at the New York City Emergency Management Warehouse, packs up a ventilator, part of a shipment of 400, that arrived Tuesday, March 24, 2020 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)