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'Try getting it yourselves': Trump told governors they're responsible for getting their own medical equipment to treat coronavirus patients

Business Insider logo Business Insider 3/16/2020 Sonam Sheth
a close up of Donald Trump wearing a hat © Alex Brandon/AP Photo

President Donald Trump told a group of governors on Monday that they should get vital equipment to treat coronavirus patients on their own.

"Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment - try getting it yourselves," Trump told the governors during a phone call, The New York Times reported. "We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Points of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself."

The Times reported that Trump's directive took some of the governors by surprise given that states are already working overtime to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus and are hoping for more federal aid.

Hospitals across the country are overwhelmed as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to skyrocket.

The Washington Post reported that health care workers are building triage tents outside emergency rooms, squeezing extra beds into break rooms and physical therapy gyms, and calling for delays in elective surgeries - or cancelling them altogether - as they grapple with the rapidly spreading disease.

At least 3,823 people in 49 US states plus Washington, DC, and three territories have tested positive for the virus, and at least 67 patients have died. New York alone reported 950 cases as of Monday morning.

The Times reported that Trump used most of his conference call with governors to paint a rosy picture of the disease, which contradicts everything scientists and public health experts have said.

"We're going to get it remedied and hopefully very quickly," the president said. "We broke down a system that was broken, very badly broken," he added, and said his administration would create a new system "that I think is going to be the talk of the world."

Trump's comments are at odds with his own earlier statements, during which he claimed the US was well equipped to handle the virus, that it was "totally under control," and that it had been "contained."

The World Health Organization classified the novel coronavirus as a pandemic on Wednesday. To date, the disease has infected nearly 175,000 people around the world and killed more than 6,700.

The Trump administration has been widely criticized for what critics say is tepid response to a rapidly spreading pandemic. Trump declared a national emergency on Friday after weeks of downplaying the risks of the public health crisis.

The move will trigger the Stafford Act and open up access to $50 billion in federal money to be allocated to states and municipalities.

Cities and states across the country have also implemented strict restrictions and shut down public places in the absence of federal guidance.

New York - which is a hotspot for the outbreak in the US - Los Angeles, Massachusetts, Ohio, and others have begun lockdown procedures. New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey jointly moved to ban gatherings of more than 50 people.

On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for the Army Corps of Engineers to deploy to the state and build more hospital beds.

"This is a disaster waiting to happen," Cuomo said on "Good Morning America."

"There has been no country that has handled this without a national response," he added.

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