Donald Trump shot down remarks from a New Orleans nurse who pointed to the ”sporadic” availability of personal protective equipment across the US and inside the community health centre where she works.
Sophia Thomas, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, told the president that she has reused her N95 mask “for a few weeks” before bringing a new one to the White House, which hosted the president’s signing of a proclamation recognising National Nurses Day during the coronavirus pandemic.
Asked whether she is seeing an adequate supply of protective gear, she said it has been “sporadic” and that her colleagues have reported “pockets of areas where PPE is not ideal.” Her colleagues have had to forego infection control measures (”one gown, one mask for one patient a day or per time”) through the public health crisis as stockpiles diminished, she said.
“My youngest patient has been four days old — a four-day-old infant,” she said. “And so PPE has been sporadic, but it’s been manageable, and we do what we have to do. We’re nurses, and we learn to adapt and we do whatever the best thing that we can do for our patients to get the job done and get the care provided. And that’s what we’re going to continue to do as Covid-19 continues.”
Mr Trump responded: “Sporadic for you, but not sporadic for a lot of other people….Because I’ve heard the opposite.”
He claimed that hospitals are “loaded up” with gowns and repeated his false claim that the previous administration inherited an “empty cupboard” that left the US ill-equipped for a pandemic.
While the nation’s supply of masks in the national stockpile were not substantially replenished following the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, the Trump administration did not take steps to boost the stockpile or production until thousands of Covid-19 cases appeared in the US.
Federal agencies waited until March to place bulk orders for N95 respirator masks, among other necessary equipment.
Countless reports and images on social media from health workers have illustrated a lack of adequate protective equipment in hospitals across the US.
The president pointed to masks being manufactured at the Honeywell plant in Phoenix, Arizona, which he visited yesterday.
Maria Arvonio, a nursing supervisor at Virtua Willingboro Medical Center in New Jersey, said her facility has not faced a dramatic shortage of protective gear, but the president cut off her remarks and blamed “fake news” for accurately reporting shortages, then claimed he has “done more than any other president in history in the first three years” as commander in chief.
Pressed by reporters, he admitted that there weren’t enough masks at the onset of the outbreak.
The Department of Defence, meanwhile, has announced a $126m deal with 3M to make up to 26 million masks per month — beginning in October.
Mr Trump described the nurses as “incredible warriors”, adding to his list of war-like remarks amid the nation’s battle with the “invisible enemy” as the US death toll spikes to more than 72,000, eclipsing actual war-time deaths over two decades in Vietnam.
Asked later whether the “warriors” comments equate to asking Americans to put themselves into harm’s way, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said: “Not in the slightest. It’s actually the opposite.” She said “warriors are” people who are relying on social distancing, despite the president’s own comments.