Numerous U.S. governors say there is a significant shortage of ventilators, masks and other medical equipment needed in their states to treat coronavirus victims, and are partly blaming the national government for bidding against them to buy the supplies.
Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, who also is chairman of the National Governors Association, says that his eastern U.S. state is “flying blind” in trying to treat coronavirus victims because it does not have enough test kits.
U.S. President Donald Trump told governors earlier this week that he had not heard complaints about a test kit shortage for weeks, and said he thought the national supply was sufficient.
But Hogan, a Republican like Trump, told National Public Radio, “Yeah, that’s just not true.”
Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut, a Democrat, said that as supplies run short and the U.S. death toll mounts by hundreds a day, “We are on our own.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, another Democrat, said the fight to claim enough ventilators is like “being on eBay with 50 other states, bidding on a ventilator.”
Trump several days ago suggested states and localities are requesting too many of the expensive ventilators, which can cost between $25,000 and $50,000.
Asked Tuesday about Cuomo’s complaint that states are bidding against each other for the ventilators, Trump said, “The problem is, with some people, whatever you give, it’s never enough.”
Cuomo said New York is buying 17,000 ventilators from China at a cost of $25,000 apiece. Hogan said the governors as a group are pushing the federal government to coordinate the purchase of medical equipment so states do not end up bidding against each other.
Numerous critics of the U.S. COVID–19 response, including Democratic political opponents of Trump and some Republicans, have faulted him for as recently as a few weeks ago minimizing the potential deadly threat to Americans.
Vice President Mike Pence, who is overseeing the country’s response to the pandemic, credited Trump in an interview with CNN Wednesday for acting in January to block flights from China, where the coronavirus first erupted. But he said the U.S. could have been quicker to respond to the spreading virus “if China had been more forthcoming” with information about the severity of the disease.
Even as U.S. officials have searched for sufficient medical equipment in recent days, they also discovered the U.S. was still was sending such supplies to other countries that had requested help. The U.S. government says it quickly placed a moratorium on further overseas shipments of protective gear for health care workers.
Trump said federal authorities are keeping 10,000 ventilators in stock to decide where they are needed the most in the coming days and weeks to try to curb the number of deaths, specifically mentioning the southern state of Louisiana, one of the emerging coronavirus hotspots.
“We have a reserve right now. It’s like oil reserves, but more valuable,” the president said.
Even as the U.S. death toll approaches 4,000, the White House is predicting that eventually 100,000 to 240,000 people could die nationwide, with the peak number of fatalities expected to occur this month.
Trump, after first comparing the coronavirus to the seasonal flu and car accidents, now has pivoted to a much more somber assessment.
“Our country is in the midst of a great national trial unlike any we have faced before,” he said Tuesday. He called the death toll estimates “very sobering.”
“This could be a hell of a bad two weeks and maybe even three weeks,” he said. “This is going to be three weeks like we haven’t seen before.”
Pence told CNN, “There are challenging days ahead.” But he said if Americans practice safe-distancing, even in states where there are no stay-at-home orders, “we can get through this.”