President Trump revealed a personal secret about his experience during the coronavirus crisis, telling reporters on Tuesday that the day that he was informed that the US was short 130,000 ventilators was “the scariest day of my life.”
“I knew that every person that needed a ventilator and didn’t get one would die,” he said. “And that’s what we were told.”
Shocked into action
Trump referenced reports that other countries, especially Italy, were having to make terrible choices about how to allocate their already waning respiratory support resources in March.
“I instructed my team to move heaven and earth to make sure this didn’t happen,” Trump said.
Indeed, Trump spent much of March negotiating with auto manufacturers to begin producing thousands of ventilators and even invoked the Korean war-era Defense Production Act to order GM to produce the machines.
“This is the system we inherited,” Trump sniped. “I had governors requesting unreasonable sums that the federal government just didn’t have and, you look at the states… The states were not prepared.”
The Hill reported on April 7 that New York City had auctioned off hundreds of life-saving ventilators several years ago because the city “couldn’t afford to maintain them.” The stockpile had been acquired by former mayor Mike Bloomberg in response to a different viral respiratory disease threat.
The reality of the number of required ventilators to handle the patient load in hard-hit areas has thus far fallen short of the astronomical projections.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on April 6 that “there is no hospital that needs ventilators that doesn’t have ventilators … in the state system,” and said that the state does not need additional equipment “right now.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose city is still in the grip of the largest outbreak in the US, said on Sunday that due to the downturn in new critically ill hospital admissions, “we will now have enough ventilators to get through this coming week.”
Nonetheless, Trump said that 150,00 to 200,000 ventilators are currently planned to be produced or currently in production.
The president said that the ventilators will be added to the Strategic National Stockpile in preparation for future outbreaks.