“You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators,” New York’s governor said on Tuesday
As the number of novel coronavirus cases in New York continues to balloon, President Donald Trump told Fox News that he didn't believe the state really needed the 30,000 ventilators it says will critically help treat what it expects may be an overwhelming amount of patients.
"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, 73, told Sean Hannity .
"I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators," the president said. "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?' "
He didn't mention New York by name, but the suggestion was clear based on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo 's comments.
"I hope NY doesn't ultimately need 30,000 ventilators. But I don't operate on opinion and hope. I operate on facts and data and science. All the projections say we will need 30,000-40,000 ventilators," Cuomo tweeted on Friday morning. "So that is what we will strive to have."
Also on Friday, Trump tweeted , without further evidence: "Thousand of Federal Government (delivered) Ventilators found in New York storage. N.Y. must distribute NOW!"
Cuomo, 62, has urged the Trump administration this month to step up its fight to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which is now known to have infected more people in the United States than anywhere else in the world.
The U.S. surpassed China and Italy on Thursday in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases.
One common symptom in the most severe cases is incapacitated lungs. Ventilators help patients by pumping oxygen into their lungs, keeping them alive as their bodies work to fight off the new virus.
Officials on Trump's coronavirus task force on Thursday said New York still has upwards of 2,000 ventilators not being used at the moment, but Cuomo has repeated that his request for more ventilators is to help combat the peak of the outbreak in New York, which health officials expect to come in about two weeks.
"The president says it's 'a war,' " Cuomo said Tuesday during his daily press briefing. "Well, then, act like it's a war!"
He said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has only sent the state 400 ventilators. The Trump administration later said it would send 4,000 additional ventilators to the state.
"You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators," Cuomo fired back on Tuesday.
Trump has avoided using the Defense Production Act, a wartime law which would allow the president to call on private manufacturing companies to help build equipment to fight the virus, including ventilators and other items that hospitals around the country say they're seeing shortages of, like masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment.
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Trump and other administration officials have insisted that private manufacturing companies stepped up to help build ventilators on their own without the DPA's authority being invoked.
But Cuomo, who was managing a state with nearly 40,000 coronavirus cases as of Friday morning, said that's not enough.
"We need the federal government to use the Defense Production Act so that we can get the medical supplies we desperately need," Cuomo tweeted Monday. "We can't just wait for companies to come forward with offers and hope they will. This is a national emergency."
A spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment about Trump's Fox News interview.
The president has previously said he and Cuomo have a good relationship in working to fight the virus.
His rhetoric on the seriousness of the virus changed last week after he earlier downplayed it compared to the seasonal flu and claimed his opponents were trying to politicize it as a "hoax."
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