President Trump on Sunday speculated that New York state hospitals are running short of respirator masks to protect doctors and nurses from the coronavirus because supplies are being stolen.
“How do you go from 10 to 20 [thousand masks per week] to 300,000? Ten [thousand] to 20,000 masks, to 300,000,” Trump said at a briefing by the coronavirus task force in the Rose Garden. “Something is going on, and you ought to look into it as reporters. Are they going out the back door?”
Trump did not elaborate on what gave rise to his suspicion.
At a press briefing in New York Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was asked to respond to Trump’s comments.
“I don’t know what that means,” Cuomo said. “I don’t know what he’s trying to say. If he wants to make an accusation, then let him make an accusation.”
But earlier this month, Cuomo himself said that people were stealing face masks and other medical equipment from area hospitals.
“Not just people taking a couple or three, I mean just actual thefts of those products,” Cuomo said. “I’ve asked the state police to do an investigation, look at places that are selling masks, medical equipment, protective wear, feeding the anxiety.”
Hospital officials in Boston and elsewhere have reported similar thefts.
Cuomo did not repeat the remark on Monday or give any update on the investigation.
Trump has also suggested that New York City is hoarding ventilators, pointing to a surplus at a New York City warehouse in Edison, N.J. Cuomo said he needs 30,000 of the machines to respond to the mounting coronavirus epidemic in New York state and has asked the federal government for assistance in getting them.
“We’re creating a stockpile,” Cuomo said. “For someone to say, ‘Well, the warehouse has equipment in it, you should be using that equipment today,’ that defies the basic concept of planning and the basic operation that we have to have working not just in this state but across the country. If you are not preparing for the apex and for the high point, you are missing the entire point of the operation. It is a fundamental blunder to only prepare for today.”
New York has become ground zero for the coronavirus in the United States, with more than 66,000 confirmed cases of the virus and over 1,200 deaths, figures roughly six times larger than any other state. Overall, there have been more than 140,000 confirmed U.S. cases and over 2,400 deaths.
At the press briefing, Cuomo was asked if he’s avoiding creating conflict with Trump.
“I’m not going to get into a political dispute with the president,” he said. “I’m not going to rise to the bait of a political challenge. I’m not running for president.”
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