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“We’re gonna find out”: Amid coronavirus crisis, Trump admits New York may not have ventilators it needs

“We have a lot of states that have to be taken care of. Some much more so than others.”

Trump speaks during the White House coronavirus briefing on April 3.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Donald Trump acknowledged on Friday that in the days to come New York may not have enough ventilators to treat all the coronavirus patients who need them.

Asked by ABC’s Jon Karl during the White House press briefing April 3 if he can assure New Yorkers that they’ll have all the ventilators they need, Trump flatly replied, “No.”

“They should’ve had more ventilators at the time. They should’ve had more ventilators,” Trump said. “They were totally under-serviced. We are trying to do — we are doing our best for New York. You know, we have, ah, we have states, we have a lot of states — we have territories too — but we have a lot of states that have to be taken care of. Some much more so than others.”

“We happen to think that [New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s] well-served with ventilators. We’re gonna find out,” continued Trump.

Nearly 3,000 people have already died from Covid-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus) in New York, and more than 136,000 in the tri-state area have the virus. Sadly, the worst is likely yet to come.

Both Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday that if current trends hold, New York City will run out of ventilators next week. That will likely cause coronavirus deaths to spike as patients are unable to get the care they need to stay alive. Cuomo on Friday tried to address the situation by authorizing the National Guard to take ventilators from hospitals outside the New York City area that don’t need them to places that do, but he’s previously indicated federal help is necessary for him to meet the demand.

Trump, however, has been reluctant to pull out all the stops. Last week, he told Sean Hannity he had “a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be. I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.” Since then, Trump has repeatedly attacked state officials in New York and elsewhere for not doing more on their own to acquire ventilators.

But while Trump thinks the states should’ve done more to prepare for a pandemic, he apparently doesn’t feel his administration had the same obligation. Asked on Friday why he didn’t do more to acquire the necessary medical gear, Trump tried to shift blame to “previous administrations,” although he was president for three full years before the coronavirus hit.

The federal government reportedly has a stockpile of roughly 8,000 functional ventilators, but the Trump administration doesn’t seem keen to deploy them to New York.

Asked Friday by CBS’s Weijia Jiang to explain comments Jared Kushner made the day before about how the federal stockpile is purportedly “not supposed to be states’ stockpiles,” Trump unloaded on Jiang (“you oughta be ashamed of yourself”) and then argued he has an obligation to save some of them for other states that could face crises on the level of New York in the future.

“Frankly, many of the states were totally unprepared for this,” Trump said, adding: “We have a stockpile. It is a federal stockpile. We can use it for states, or we can use it for ourselves. We do use it for the federal government. We have a very big federal government.”

Trump’s comments likely won’t come as a surprise to Cuomo, who said Thursday, “I don’t think the federal government is in a position to provide ventilators to the extent the nation may need them ... our attitude here is that we are on our own.”

Still, it’s jarring to hear the president of the United States basically admit he’s leaving the state hardest hit by the worst pandemic the country has experienced in a century to fend for itself — especially in circumstances where the federal government is in possession of resources that could save American lives.

Trump, however, seems to think the best course of action is to save them for a future circumstance where other states (perhaps ones more crucial to his reelection hopes) are in need.

The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage.

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