For the second day in a row, President Donald Trump pushed the theory that health care workers were responsible for a shortage of protective masks during the coronavirus pandemic.
The president repeated the implication in his Monday press briefing when a reporter began to ask him about remarks he made Sunday that masks may be “going out the back door.” Trump cut off the reporter, saying a “tremendous power in the business,” seemingly a supplier of masks, had backed up his idea.
“He said that a New York hospital, for a long period of time, he was giving 10,000, maybe maximum 20,000 masks over a short time, and all of a sudden he’s giving 300,000,” Trump said of the number of masks that lawmakers and public health officials are calling for.
“And I said, ‘No matter how bad this is, could that be possible?’ He said no. So there’s only a couple of things that could happen. Is it going out the back door?” Trump asked, though he never offered another explanation.
There is zero evidence that such a thing is widely happening, and Trump offered no proof of this theory, which he first pushed at his press briefing on Sunday.
In reality, hospitals and medical professionals have long warned that the national stockpile of medical supplies would be depleted by the pandemic if drastic action wasn’t taken to produce more. The World Health Organization said weeks ago that production of masks and other supplies needed to be ramped up, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told health care providers they may have to use homemade gear, such as bandannas or scarves, “if necessary.” Health care workers around the country have said they’re terrified by the shortage.
Regardless, Trump said that, “despite the virus,” he didn’t understand why hospitals needed so many more masks than usual since New York City hospitals are “always full.”
Trump then told the reporter, who still hadn’t asked a question, that he should “go to the hospital and find out,” ostensibly by investigating if health care workers are stealing masks.
There are more than 140,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in the U.S., and more than 2,400 people have died, nationwide, with about half of those in New York City.
Trump didn’t take well to other challenging questions at Monday’s press conference. When Jim Acosta, CNN’s White House correspondent, asked him what he had to say to Americans who are upset with him for downplaying the crisis, Trump lashed back: “Instead of asking a nasty, snarky question like that, you should ask a real question.”
He did the same with PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor after she asked him why the U.S. hadn’t tested as many people per capita as South Korea had.
“You should be saying congratulations instead of asking a really snarky question,” Trump responded, “because I know exactly what you mean by that.”