By Jessica Cohen
For the Gazette
Congressman Sean Maloney (D-18th District) said his office is working to compensate for “inexcusable delays in marshaling resources by the federal government” to get personal protective equipment to health care workers.
Maloney said his office is in daily contact with hospitals and community health care centers, making sure they have the PPE they need.
Further, he said, “The governor has coordinated an evidence-based response to stop the spread of the virus because of a vacuum at the federal level. The governor knows that it’s a disaster if they fail to look at the scientific data and use a coordinated protocol based on science. Governors have to act because the president has failed to act.”
Maloney emphasized the value of maintaining restrictions on social contact to contain the virus because so many people are carriers.
“There’s evidence that restrictions are working,” he said. “The issue is testing. We’re a step behind on a national testing system. The president has all the authority and resources needed to deal with the pandemic, but we paid a terrible price for not addressing it at the outbreak. We had more time and warning but far greater rate of infection than any other country. We had six times the number of cases China had, though they have four times the population. It’s been a disaster.”
When told two weeks ago that the staff of an ambulance company and a funeral director in Orange County that lacked adequate PPE supplies, members of Maloney’s staff said they would assist. They contacted both, but as of Tuesday no assistance had been provided yet.
“I never thought I’d see my staff in Disney World rain ponchos,” said Scott Woebse, president and CEO of Mobile Life Support Services, based in Middletown. “It’s the Wild West bidding on eBay. N95 masks are usually a dollar each, but they’re up to seven dollars there.”
Meanwhile, his staff works in the small space in the back of ambulances, sometimes with substandard PPE. They worry about contaminating their families.
“Some sleep in pop-up campers on their driveways when they come home. That’s how scary it is for them,” he said.
Two local legislators declined to comment about their efforts related to the pandemic. Orange County Legislator Tom Faggione said he had no comment, and state Assemblyman Karl Brabenec did not respond to phone messages requesting comment on the crisis.
Port Jervis Mayor Kelly Decker said that Maloney had responded to him, “Yeah it’s a mess. But temporary, I believe.”
As a volunteer driver at the Port Jervis Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Decker said that PPE packages that include N95 masks and gowns are available to staff.
For a previous Gazette story, State Sen. Jen Metzger (D-42nd District) discussed her initiatives to aid constituents during the pandemic. They include a 40-page online Covid-19 resource guide (bit.ly/SD42-COVID19-GUIDE) and proposing a bill to make mail-in ballots universally available for voter safety. She also supports a voucher system for buying produce through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assist both farmers and consumers.