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Trump challenges Cuomo: "I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators"

Trump, governors at odds on virus precautions
Trump at odds with U.S. governors on end to pandemic precautions 02:24

President Trump said on "Hannity" Thursday night that he doesn't think states need as many ventilators as they have requested from the federal government to deal with the coronavirus crisis. The president appeared to reference the dire request from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for 30,000 ventilators

"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 need," the president said. "I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you go to major hospitals, sometimes they have two ventilators. Now all of a sudden they're saying can we order 30,000 ventilators."

On Friday, Cuomo appeared to respond to the president's challenge, saying he hopes the state doesn't need 30,000 ventilators, but that he's basing the request on data being provided to him by experts. 

"Somebody said on one of the cable news shows said: 'The ventilators that New York needed aren't even being deployed, they're in a stockpile,'" Cuomo said. "Yes, they're in a stockpile, because that's where they're supposed to be, because we don't need them yet, we need them for the apex, the apex isn't here so we're gathering them in the stockpile so when we need them they will be there."

"Second point: 'Well maybe you don't need 30,000.' Look, I don't have a crystal ball, everybody's entitled to their own opinion, but I don't operate here on opinion. I operate on facts, and on data, and on numbers, and on projections," he said.

"I hope we don't need 30,000 ventilators, I hope some natural weather change happens over night kills the virus globally ... but the numbers say you might need 30,000."

Cuomo has said projections show the state will need the ventilators within the next two weeks, when the peak of coronavirus cases is expected to hit the state. As of Wednesday, Cuomo said the state has been able gather about half of the ventilators it needs, but only about 4,000 of those have come from the federal government. 

Ventilators are lifesaving devices for COVID-19 patients. In severe cases, the disease can cause inflammation in the lungs, filling them with fluid and making it hard for the patient to breathe on their own. Ventilators take over the body's breathing process, giving the person time to fight off the infection and recover. 

The governor explained that New York — which has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country — needs such a high number of ventilators because the rate of turnaround for ventilators in COVID-19 patients is much slower than in typical respiratory illnesses.

"Why is there such a demand on ventilators, and where did this come from? It's a respiratory illness for a large number of people, so they all need ventilators," Cuomo said at his daily press conference Thursday afternoon. "Also, non-COVID patients are normally on ventilators for three to four days — COVID patients are on ventilators for 11 to 21 days. ... So, you don't have the same turnaround in the number of ventilators."

He said earlier this week that the state is testing the possibility of splitting one ventilator between two patients to help the supply go further.

New York Governor Cuomo stresses need for more ventilators 02:30

On Wednesday, Cuomo said meeting the 30,000 ventilator quota would be an "extraordinarily difficult task," but said it's something his team is working on with the White House. 

The president did not echo the same tone of urgency about ventilators when he called into Sean Hannity's show on Fox News Thursday evening.

"It's a highly — it's very expensive, it's a very intricate piece of equipment, you know ... heavily computerized, and you know the good ones are very, very expensive. And you know they say, uh, like Governor Cuomo and others, they say, 'We want 30,000 of them.' 30,000? Think of this, you know you go to hospitals and they will have one in the hospital, and now all of a sudden everybody is asking for these vast numbers," Mr. Trump said.

"We have now companies stepping up and they are building them and doing the masks. We have already delivered millions and millions of masks, but remember we are really the second line of attack. The first line of attack is supposed to be the hospitals and the local government and the states, the states themselves," the president continued.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly said states need to take the lead on obtaining their own lifesaving medical equipment, rather than relying on the power of the federal government. He also spoke with Hannity about how he hopes to soon start reducing restrictions on everyday life to get the economy moving again.

"So, look, it's a very bad situation, we haven't seen anything like it, but the end result is we've got to get back to work," Mr. Trump told Hannity. "And I think we can start by opening up certain parts of the country, you know the farm belt, certain parts of the Midwest."

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