Just hours after it was confirmed that New York’s coronavirus death toll has shot up to over 1,000 people, President Donald Trump has predicted that the state will be “fine” because he’s heard “stories” that it has more than enough ventilators to go around.
The president appeared on Fox & Friends on Monday, a day after he officially abandoned his hope of reopening the U.S. economy by Easter after his aides successfully persuaded him to keep federal guidelines on social distancing in place through the end of April. In a 54-minute phone call broadcast on air, the president dismissed concerns that New York could be overwhelmed, and took credit for the rising popularity of its governor, Andrew Cuomo.
“I think New York should be fine based on the numbers that we see. They should have more than enough [ventilators],” Trump told the Fox News morning hosts. “I’m hearing stories that they’re not used or not used them right. We find anywhere from 2 to 4,000 that have been sent and aren’t used. We’ve done a job. Now, we’re still getting more ventilators... after this is over they’ll be selling ventilators for a dollar a piece, we’ll have a lot of them.”
Cuomo and Trump have repeatedly clashed over ventilators, with Cuomo telling CNN last Friday that Trump’s assessment of New York’s situation was “incorrect and grossly uninformed.” Cuomo has called for 30,000 ventilators, explaining that state hospitals had only 4,000 in the system at the beginning of the outbreak. Trump has previously said that he didn’t believe the state would need anywhere near that number, and clearly hasn’t yet been persuaded otherwise.
Asked specifically about Cuomo, whose popularity has shot up during the outbreak, Trump told Fox & Friends that it was down to him. “One of the reasons his numbers are high on handling it is because of the federal government,” Trump said. “We give him ships, we give him ventilators, we give him all the things that we’re giving him... One of the reasons he’s been successful is because we’ve helped make him successful.”
Trump was also asked about the nationwide pandemic situation, and why he has suddenly decided to step back from his plan to loosen social-distancing guidelines and reopen the economy. In a chilling answer, the president said it only dawned on him Sunday how many people might die if lockdown measures were lifted, even though that has been known for weeks.
“If we didn’t shut it down... I used to say, a lot of people said, could you just have kept it going? Like the flu, a bad case of the flu, a really bad case,” Trump said. “And the answer came in yesterday through Dr. Fauci and Deborah Birx... If we did that, if we just kept business as usual and didn’t do anything to stop or impede it, 2.2 million people could have died.”
Trump went on to say: “The federal government has done far more than if anybody else was president. If Sleepy Joe was president, he wouldn’t even know what’s going on. You know that. I mean everybody knows that.”
At the end of the interview, before Trump headed off for a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the hosts begged permission to ask one last question. “How can we pray for you?” Ainsley Earhardt asked. “The Bible is clear, we need to pray for our leaders and we are praying for you. Many in this country are clinging to God right now.”
Trump said receiving Earhardt’s prayers was a “great honor.”