The report found the city lacked coordination and preparedness in early 2020 despite warnings to get ready for a pandemic.
"We were warned in January we were still trying to figure out the operations in March," said the NYC Comptrollers Scott Stringer.
His interim report cites testimonials, documents and inter-agency emails he says show the city was so unprepared that no one even knew there was a stockpile of desperately needed PPE like N95 masks.
"The city had allowed its entire supply of over 100,000 surgical N95s to expire years earlier," the report said.
According to Stringer, the city's initial response to COVID was hampered by a lack of coordination across city government.
"The Health Department, FDNY and NYPD were all excluded from key decision making, leading to a lot of miscommunication and confusion when time was most of the essence," said Stringer.
Even after the 2001 H1N1 swine flu and 2014 Ebola pandemic, Stringer says the city failed to finalize an operational plan for an outbreak.
The city's watchdog says as a result, key planning, preparing for surge, hospital capacity, sheltering vulnerable populations and a citywide shutdown dragged weeks into the crisis and by that time the city already had thousands of confirmed COVID cases.
"I think there's a lot that says this city responded very powerfully," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
When asked Wednesday, de Blasio said he hadn't seen the comptroller's report but thanked the health care workers who worked to procure masks and ventilators and save lives.
"There's no way to fully understand a global pandemic until you're in it and none of us anticipated anything like this and we needed federal leadership that wasn't there," de Blasio said.
The mayor is being called on to provide documentation and witnesses to continue the investigation. It won't erase the mistakes of past, but Stringer says will prepare for a future pandemic.
Stringer said this is about saving lives and businesses and looking tens of thousands of people in the eye and telling them what the city knew and what they did about it.
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