NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Tons of personal protective equipment, crucial during a pandemic, could now be at risk.

The PPE, including one-size-fits-all isolation gowns, is being stored outside in the summer heat under blue tarps at a veterans’ home in Queens.

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“That’s really disturbing. I mean, we all fought our way through COVID. We needed all the PPE we could get,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The mayor and city health leaders were asked about the outdoor stockpile at the New York State Veterans’ Home at St. Albans, which is run by the state department of health.

They say there’s no way to guarantee all of the equipment is still fully protective.

“There is no acceptable reason for keeping PPE outdoors. You keep PPE not just indoors, but you keep them in rooms where it’s the right temperature and humidity to protect the viability of it,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, president and CEO of NYC Health and Hospitals.

On Tuesday, Chopper 2 caught workers sifting through the supplies, once scarce and desperately needed during the height of COVID.

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The website “The City” reports the boxes have been outside under the tarps for months.

De Blasio did not mention his political nemesis Gov. Andrew Cuomo by name but did reference the ongoing investigations into his handling of nursing homes during the pandemic and their death tolls.

“This begs the question, again, what is the state of New York doing with nursing homes? Why is their oversight so lax? What do we gotta do to change the laws?” de Blasio said.

The New York State Department of Health released the following statement:

“The NYS Veterans’ Home at St. Albans, like other skilled nursing facilities, continues to receive, manage and use a supply of PPE items in an ongoing effort to combat the pandemic, stay prepared for any future developments and abide by State and Federal regulations governing PPE supply requirements. The facility’s current supply of PPE, including the required 60-day supply, is being properly stored inside. While an additional quantity of PPE, separate from the 60-day supply and not needed for the daily needs of the home, was stored outside due to a lack of available storage, the facility has been working for weeks to move supplies to on-campus storage facilities and identify additional storage facilities. This process will continue until all items are inside – a process we expect to be completed by the end of the week. The suggestion that all the items outside are rotting and infested with rodents is inaccurate, and reports of mass damage to these items are grossly exaggerated. In fact, only a small percentage of boxes have visible damage to them, and we will be thoroughly inspecting everything stored outside to ensure that the PPE is suitable for usage. We are investigating whether any PPE may have been unnecessarily damaged and will take any appropriate remedial action.”

 

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A staffer at the federal VA facility next door told CBS2’s Andrea Grymes off-camera she was outraged to learn about this considering they had to buy their own PPE during the height of the pandemic.

Andrea Grymes