President Donald Trump dismissed pleas for thousands of life-saving ventilators from Democratic governors in states hit hard by the new coronavirus during a Thursday call to Fox News.
Trump lashed out at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's call for the federal government to provide 30,000 ventilators, which are needed to save patients with the most severe COVID-19 cases, while speaking with Fox News host Sean Hannity.
"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," he said. "I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. 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?'"
New York has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. Hospitals are increasingly worried they could face a similar ventilator shortage to Italy, where doctors were forced to choose which patients live and which patients die. New York has more than 37,000 confirmed cases, or more than 15 times as many confirmed cases as the next hardest-hit state, and at least 385 deaths.
"FEMA says, 'We're sending 400 ventilators,'" Cuomo said during a Wednesday news briefing. "Really? What am I going to do with 400 ventilators when I need 30,000? . . . You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die."
"I am getting along with Governor Cuomo," Trump told Hannity. "I think that a lot of things are being said that are more — I don't think certain things will materialize. A lot of equipment is being asked for, but I don't think they'll need."
Hannity dismissed Cuomo's call for 30,000 ventilators as "annoying."
Cuomo has repeatedly called for Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act, which allows the government to require companies to manufacture critical supplies. The president reportedly resisted using the act after heavy corporate lobbying.
Trump bragged that he has not had to use the act, because companies have agreed to help voluntarily. The New York Times reported that it could take months for the companies to produce much-needed ventilators, but Cuomo said his state only has weeks before the number of cases peak. The White House was set to announce a deal between General Motors and ventilator manufacturer Ventec Systems for 80,000 new ventilators, but the Trump administration has delayed that indefinitely after haggling over the price tag, The Times reported Thursday.
The president has repeatedly claimed that "nobody in their wildest dreams" predicted a ventilator shortage after his administration ignored years of warnings from medical experts.
Trump suggested earlier this week that the would give aid to governors that "treat us well."
"There is no other way for us to get these ventilators," Cuomo said this week. "We've tried everything else. The only way we can obtain these ventilators is from the federal government. Period."
Trump's interview came after a testy call with all 50 state governors.
"We all have to get smart," Trump told the governors in a recording of a call obtained by The Associated Press. "We have to open up our country. I'm sorry."
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee pushed back on Trump's description of the federal government as a "backup" to state efforts on the call.
"We don't need a backup," Inslee said. "We need a Tom Brady."
Trump criticized Inslee for "complaining" to Hannity.
"We have people like Governor Inslee. He should be doing more. He shouldn't be relying on the federal government," Trump said. "He was a failed presidential candidate, and he is always complaining."
Washington is the second hardest-hit state in the country, recording more than 3,200 confirmed cases and at least 147 deaths.
Inslee fired back on Twitter after the interview.
"We need a national mobilization of the industrial base in this country. That's how we won WWII," he wrote. "To get that, we need a president to lead. Washingtonians' lives depend on it."
Trump went on to lash out at Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who called the federal government's response to the crisis "mind-boggling."
"And the governor of Michigan, she's not stepping up," Trump said. "I don't know if she knows what's going on, but all she does is sit there and blame the federal government. She doesn't get it done, and we send her a lot. Now she wants a declaration of emergency and have to make a decision on that."
"We have had some trouble with the state of Washington, and he ran for president. Didn't exactly do well. He got zero. And we had a big problem with a woman governor — you know who I'm talking about — from Michigan. Though we can't — we don't like to see the complaints," he added.
Whitmer also responded to Trump's attacks on Twitter.
"Hi, my name is Gretchen Whitmer, and that governor is me," she wrote. "I've asked repeatedly and respectfully for help. We need it. No more political attacks, just PPEs, ventilators, N95 masks, test kits. You said you stand with Michigan — prove it."