New York City hospitals expanded resources to an unprecedented extent in response to the COVID pandemic. Thousands of beds, ICU beds, staff members, and ventilators were rapidly incorporated into hospital systems. Nonetheless, this historic public health disaster still created scarcities and the need for formal crisis standards of care. These were not available to NY clinicians because of the state’s failure to implement, with or without revision, long-standing guidance documents intended for just such a pandemic. The authors argue that public health plans for disasters should be well-funded and based on available research and expertise. Communities should insist that political representatives demonstrate responsible leadership by implementing and updating as needed, crisis standards of care. Finally, surge requirements should address the needs of both those expected to survive and those who will not, by expanding palliative care and other resources for the dying.