Trump questions need for 30,000 ventilators in New York
President Trump on Thursday questioned whether New York will actually need the tens of thousands of ventilators the state’s leaders have said will be required to handle the expected number of coronavirus cases there.
The president phoned into Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News, where he swiped at the governors of Michigan and Washington state and cast doubt on the need for mass ventilator production to meet the demand of certain states.
“I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be,” Trump said on “Hannity.”
“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you go into major hospitals, sometimes they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?'”
“Look, it’s a bad situation,” he added. “We haven’t seen anything like it. But the end result is we have to get back to work, and I think we can start by opening up certain parts of the country.”
The president compared purchasing a ventilator to purchasing a car, calling the machines “very expensive” and “very intricate.”
“And you know they’d say, like Gov. Cuomo and others, they’d say we want 30,000 of them. Thirty thousand?” Trump said, referring to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). “Think of this, you know you go to hospitals that have one in a hospital and now all of a sudden everyone’s asking for these vast numbers.”
The comments come as governors across the country are pleading with the federal government to provide critical medical supplies to meet the increasing need of resources as coronavirus cases continue to climb.
The president has been reluctant to use the Defense Production Act to compel private companies to produce ventilators, masks and other equipment hospitals are clamoring for, arguing they are doing so without being explicitly asked by the federal government.
Meanwhile, New York City has emerged as the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. More than 20,000 people there have been infected and more than 300 have died of the virus as of Thursday night.
Cuomo on Tuesday pleaded with the federal government to provide the state with tens of thousands of additional ventilators to help address the expected influx of coronavirus cases. He projected that the state would need 30,000 of the breathing machines, leaving New York just over 20,000 short.
“There is no other way for us to get these ventilators,” Cuomo said at a press conference Tuesday. “We’ve tried everything else. The only way we can obtain these ventilators is from the federal government. Period.”
Vice President Pence said later Tuesday that the government would ship an additional 4,000 ventilators to New York.
But Trump’s remarks late Thursday underscore the concerns state officials have with the federal government’s response to the virus.
The president spent weeks downplaying the threat of the coronavirus, saying at various points in January and February that it was “under control,” that the cases in the U.S. would soon be down “close to zero” and that the virus would one day disappear “like a miracle.”
Trump reiterated his belief on “Hannity” that the country should start seeking ways to get some Americans back to work, even as public health experts warn that lifting social distancing measures prematurely will likely lead to a spike in infections and deaths.
Public health officials on the White House coronavirus task force said Thursday that they need more data and testing across the country to be able to determine which areas are at higher risk. Trump has made clear he hopes to reopen the economy in areas deemed low risk, though the final call on mitigation measures ultimately falls to governors.
Trump praised the leadership of red states like Iowa, Idaho and Nebraska, where they have yet to see significant outbreaks.
“They all have a little bit, but many of them have just a little bit and they have it under control,” Trump said.
He chastised the governors of Washington state and Michigan, two areas dealing with significant outbreaks where state leaders have been critical of the federal government’s response.
Trump said he’s had “some trouble” with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who challenged the administration on a call earlier in the day to take a more central role in the response rather than supplementing states.
The president did not name Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), only referring to her as “the young, a woman governor … from Michigan.”
“Michigan is a very important state,” he said. “She is a new governor and it’s not been pleasant.”