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Mayors say their cities lack the equipment to cope with the coronavirus

The health of residents is being ‘seriously compromised,’ they warn

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As the coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread across the country, hospitals and first responders have complained of a lack of proper medical and safety equipment.

In a new survey, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) asked city officials around the nation to assess the situation, and they are nearly universal in saying it’s getting worse. Mayors from 213 cities in 41 states and Puerto Rico say the shortage of test kits, masks, and other personal protective equipment has reached crisis proportions.

The mayors organization says the safety of city residents, health care workers, first responders, and other city workers is being “seriously compromised.”

On the frontlines

As the survey was taken, 303 member mayors signed a letter to Congress seeking federal resources to deal with the daily increase in the number of cases.

"Our first responders and health care workers are on the frontline of the COVID-19 outbreak, and mayors are doing all we can to provide them with the resources to stay safe and to keep our residents healthy," said USCM President Bryan K. Barnett. "While cities are doing everything they can, we need support from our state and federal leaders. This survey confirms what mayors already know to be true: we need adequate resources to end this pandemic."

The survey quizzed the mayors of cities large and small, with populations ranging from under 2,000 to 3.8 million. Six of the cities have populations over one million, while 45 have populations below 50,000. Needs and concerns are largely the same.

Over the weekend, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams used social media to warn that individual cities now face a rising threat from the pandemic. In particular, he said Indianapolis could become a “hot spot” for the disease. Adams is a former Indiana health commissioner.

Miami has seen a recent spike in coronavirus cases. As of Sunday, Miami and Dade County had reported more than 1,100, accounting for about a fourth of all the cases in Florida.

Specific findings

The USCM survey found that 91.5 percent of the included cities lack an adequate supply of face masks for their first responders and medical personnel. More than 88 percent don’t have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) other than face masks to protect these workers.

Nearly all mayors -- 92.1 percent -- said they don’t have enough test kits, and 85 percent said hospitals in their city don’t have enough ventilators.

"The ability of a city to protect its residents from COVID-19 depends on first responders and health care personnel, our first line of defense, staying healthy as they save lives," said Tom Cochran, USCM’s CEO and Executive Director. 

He said the survey clearly shows the nation’s cities need a lot more help.

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