President Donald Trump rejected calls from New York’s governor that the state needed tens of thousands of new ventilators to treat a mass of patients infected with the novel coronavirus, saying he didn’t believe those numbers were accurate.
“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 told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Thursday night. “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?”
He added: “Look, it’s a very bad situation. We haven’t seen anything like it, but the end result is we’ve got to get back to work, and I think we can start by opening up certain parts of the country.”
The president’s statements came as public health officials declared the United States the leading country in terms of coronavirus cases with more than 81,300 infected. More than 1,000 people have been killed by the virus, many in New York, which has the worst outbreak in the nation.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) responded Friday by saying the numbers were based on facts, not a belief or a feeling.
“I don’t operate on opinion. I operate on facts, data, projections,” Cuomo said at his daily press conference, explaining the numbers are based on projections from public health experts.
“All the projections say you could have an apex of 40,000 ventilators,” he said. “Make the decisions based on the data and the science.”
“I hope we don’t need the 30,000 ventilators,” Cuomo added. He said he wished there’d be “some natural weather change” that would wipe out the virus, apparently referring to Trump’s spurious suggestion last month that the virus would simply disappear as the weather gets warmer.
“But that’s my hope, that’s my emotion,” Cuomo said. “The numbers say you may need 30,000.”
Cuomo had warned Thursday that the state’s hospitals could soon be overwhelmed with patients afflicted with the COVID-19 disease, noting more than 5,200 people had been hospitalized, including 1,290 in intensive care.
On Tuesday Cuomo said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was sending 400 ventilators after he warned that the state needed thousands more to deal with an impending “apex” of its infection rate that he estimated would take place in a few weeks.
“What am I going to do with 400 ventilators when I need 30,000?” Cuomo said at a news conference at Manhattan’s Javits Center, which is being turned into a makeshift hospital to treat New Yorkers. “You want a pat on the back for sending 400 ventilators? You’re missing the magnitude of the problem.”
Trump later said 4,000 additional ventilators would be sent to New York’s hospital system, but he blasted the governor’s leadership, saying he had a chance to buy the machines in 2015 but “turned it down.” Cuomo has ordered that 7,000 more be purchased but warned it’s still not nearly enough. The state approved a plan to allow two patients to share one ventilator if needed as infections grow more dire.
The president has been insistent that the country can soon “open up” after many states have urged residents to self-isolate and socially distance in their communities to halt the spread of the virus. He’s pushed the Easter holiday weekend as his deadline, despite warnings from health officials that doing so could spell disaster.
“I think we can open up sections, quadrants, keep them going until the whole country’s opened up,” Trump told Hannity on Thursday. “The people want to get back to work. They want to get back.”
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