President Trump told a group of governors on Monday that they should be a little more industrious in their attempts to obtain the equipment necessary to treat patients infected with COVID-19, and to stop waiting for federal assistance to combat the pandemic.
“Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves,” Trump said, according to The New York Times, which obtained a recording of the meeting. “We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself.”
According to the Times, the suggestion “surprised” some of the governors, who are looking to the federal government for assistance to combat the outbreak.
A nationwide shortage of equipment — particularly ventilators, which assist in breathing — could prove disastrous as the count of Americans who have tested positive continues to rise. According to a recent Johns Hopkins study, U.S. hospitals currently have a total of 160,000 ventilators, and, as Politico notes, there are believed to be around 20,000 additional ventilators in the national emergency stockpile. Considering some public-health experts have estimated that half of the American population (if not more than that) could contract the coronavirus, this is concerning.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is one of several who have requested assistance. New York is closing in on 1,000 confirmed cases, and Cuomo said on Sunday that the state has only about 600 ICU beds available, and added that “thousands and thousands” more ventilators and ICU beds will be needed to accommodate the coming surge of confirmed cases. “These ventilators are expensive to begin with and they are scarce, and you can’t find available ventilators no matter how much you’re willing to pay right now, because there is literally a global run on ventilators,” he said.
In his latest petty attempt to politicize the crisis, Trump on Monday afternoon singled out Cuomo — with whom he has sparred politically — on Twitter, writing that the Democrat has to “do more.”
Just had a very good tele-conference with Nation’s Governors. Went very well. Cuomo of New York has to “do more”.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 16, 2020
The federal government’s lack of preparation, lack of transparency, and lack of any clue on how to address the crisis is glaring. In addition to Trump’s fend-for-yourselves directive on Monday, the officials tasked with handling the issue have failed to inspire confidence.
Late last week, Fox News’ Martha MacCallum pressed Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma about whether there will be enough ICU units, ventilators, swabs, and other types of equipment to treat those who contract COVID-19. Verma dodged the question multiple times, instead touting the “bold and decisive action” taken by Trump, which seems to be the only talking point the administration is able to unify behind.
— Adam Wren (@adamwren) March 13, 2020
The lack of equipment necessary to treat Americans who test positive is the primary reason for the need to “flatten the curve,” or to slow the spread of the virus so as not to overwhelm the health care system. If Americans fail to practice social distancing and other measures prescribed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, cases will spike and an untold number of those infected will be unable to receive care.
But as the Times points out, Trump still does not seem to grasp the severity of the pandemic. “We’re going to get it remedied and, hopefully, very quickly,” he told the governors on Monday.