Trump on urgent requests for ventilators: ‘I don’t believe you need 30,000’
Donald Trump has again downplayed the severity of an intensifying coronavirus outbreak, telling rightwing Fox News host Sean Hannity he had “a feeling that a lot of the numbers” of ventilators estimated to be needed by overwhelmed hospitals “are just bigger than they’re going to be”.
In severe cases, the coronavirus leads to the respiratory disease known as Covid-19. Ventilators can allow such patients to breathe.
Trump told Hannity: “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”
The president’s comments appeared to be in response to New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, who had called for 30,000 ventilators, explaining that state hospitals had only 4,000 in the system at the beginning of the outbreak.
Many states across the US are scrambling to buy ventilators, often at inflated rates.
In New York state, hospitals are struggling to keep up with a spike in patients. As of Friday, 44,635 cases had been confirmed in the state, resulting in 519 deaths, Cuomo said.
Cuomo is among a growing number of state leaders to criticize the federal government’s delayed response to the pandemic as well as the Trump administration’s disjointed messaging to Americans.
Hannity did not press Trump on the potential impact of insufficient supplies, continued delays or danger of spreading misinformation. The president went on to complain about the cost of the life-saving medical equipment.
“When you talk about ventilators, that’s sort of like buying a car. It’s a highly, very expensive,” he said.
The New York Times reported late on Thursday that the White House was set to announce a contract with General Motors and Ventec Life Systems to produce more than 80,000 ventilators, but had “second thoughts”.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, Fema, apparently opted for more time to negotiate the estimated costs.
On Friday morning, with his comments to Hannity echoing around the media, Trump used Twitter to indicate a policy reversal, haranguing General Motors and Ford about the production of ventilators and indicating he had invoked – or would invoke – the Defense Production Act.