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As Federal Government Mobilizes, Local Officials Say Response Remains Too Slow

The corps is also planning on building hospital space in other states but has yet to receive a directive to begin. And it has not awarded a contract for the construction in New York, a process that could take weeks.

Teams from FEMA, the Department of Health and Human Services and the corps did a walk-through at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan on Monday morning to begin turning it into a “medical surge space” that could house 3,500 hospital beds. But Deanne Criswell, New York City’s emergency management commissioner and a former senior FEMA official, said she had not been told when the facility would be ready for patients — the most important question for the city.

“In all my years of disaster management, the most precious commodity is always time,” she said. “And what we’ve lost is time.”

New York City has received two shipments of protective equipment from the administration, totaling 640,000 N95 masks and 500,000 surgical masks, including tens of thousands that are expired. Early Monday morning, an additional 400 ventilators were delivered to the city. Mayor Bill de Blasio sent a letter on March 20 to Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the White House response to the virus, that reiterated the city’s need for three million N95 masks, 50 million surgical masks and 15,000 ventilators.

The White House also committed to sending 55 gallons of hand sanitizer and 200,000 gloves, although the city has not received the materials.

Mr. Hogan, the Maryland governor, also said on Monday that the state asked for help from the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Guard to set up a hospital at a convention center in Baltimore, and an adjacent hotel. FEMA will be in charge of delivering the equipment and personnel for 250 beds that will be part of this new hospital complex.

Mr. Gaynor, the FEMA leader, said on Sunday that the agency was trying to be responsive to the various requests for help it was fielding. The Mercy, a Navy-owned hospital ship, is “immediately” going to go to California, he said, to help treat patients not suffering from the coronavirus, leaving more beds in California hospitals to treat those with the virus. But he said it could be a week before the ship is in place.

“We are filling the governors’ request, and so we send that resource to them,” he said, referring to the sudden requests for more hospital beds. “They’ll put it to best use. They’ll be put to where they — it will have the most effect. So we don’t dictate exactly where it goes.”

Helene Cooper and Ana Swanson contributed reporting.


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