NYC spending $28M to prep for possible polio, ebola, COVID outbreaks



The city will spend nearly $30 million on “disease detectives” and other health pros in preparation for nightmarish potential outbreaks — including new COVID-19 variants, mpox, ebola and polio — The Post has learned. 

The city awarded $28 million in two-year contracts to a pair of temp agencies, who will scour the country to provide 48 licensed laboratory technicians, clinicians and disease investigators to assist with detecting diseases and testing antibiotic resistance, among other services, according to a Health Department spokesman. 

“New variants of COVID-19 are likely to emerge in the fall/winter, along with other infectious disease outbreaks such as polio and Ebola, causing extensive strain on personnel if temps are unable to be utilized to support NYC’s response activities,” the agency said in public notices.

The solicitations came amid the city’s exploding migrant crisis, with more than 125,000 people having poured into the Big Apple since April 2022. 

Earlier this year, city Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan warned about half of the migrants entering the city were unvaccinated for polio and that many were coming from or passing countries with high rates of infectious tuberculosis.

The city announced it will spend up to $28 million for lab and clinic staff in preparation for potential infectious disease outbreaks.
In its notice for temporary staffing contracts, the city cited potential infectious disease outbreaks including new COVID-19 variants, polio, and ebola.
Paul Martinka

Bill Hammond, senior fellow for health policy at the government watchdog group Empire Center for Public Policy, said that an influx of tens of thousands of individuals unvaccinated for contagious — and deadly — diseases is cause for concern. 

“Making sure that immigrant arrivals are properly immunized makes sense not just for them, but for the whole city,” Hammond said. “The fewer unvaccinated people there are living in New York, the better.” 

An agency spokesman insisted the city is always preparing for future emergencies and that the new contracts were unrelated to the influx of unvaccinated migrants.

Health Department commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said early this year 50% of migrants coming to New York City didn’t have polio vaccinations.
William Farrington

“New diseases are emerging and then spreading around the world at a rate faster than we’ve ever known before,” noted Dr. Jay Varma, who served as a senior adviser to former Mayor Bill de Blasio. “But we cannot know for sure which disease will be the next one.” 

The deadly diseases cited in the alarming temp-staffing notices, however, weren’t surprising, according to Varma. 

“They have to justify a procurement by citing recent examples,” he said. “In reality, they can only predict the general resources they will need — e.g., humans, equipment, supplies, but cannot predict exactly what the next major catastrophe will be.”

Health experts say that the city listed the alarming outbreak possibilities to justify its procurement spending.
AFP via Getty Images

The deadly poliovirus, which was detected in New York City’s wastewater last year, spreads through person-to-person contact and can contaminate food and water in unsanitary conditions.

The virus can cause paralysis, which may lead to permanent disability and death. Between two and 10 out of 100 people who suffer from polio paralysis die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ebola, meanwhile, causes hemorrhagic fever, in addition to severe vomiting and diarrhea. The Ebola virus spreads through contact with body fluids from an infected person, and has a fatality rate of around 50%, according to the Pan American Health Organization. 

In 2014, a doctor who had been treating Ebola patients in Guinea tested positive for the disease after returning to New York City.

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