COVID-19: Trump suggests hospital staff stealing masks

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US President Donald Trump has suggested during a news conference that hospital staff in New York city, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the US are stealing hundreds of thousands of surgical masks.

Trump asked how the numbers of masks requested could shoot up from 10,000 to 300,000 overnight and said: “Are they going out the back door?”.

Trump also lashed out at reporters who asked questions he did not like about his previous statements, telling, PBS NewsHour’s Yamiche Alcindor: “Don’t be threatening. Be nice”

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“Many of the states are stocked up, some of them don’t admit it,” the president said Sunday at a press conference. “We have sent so many things to them, including ventilators. You know, there’s a question as to hoarding of ventilators. Some hospitals and independent hospitals and some hospital chains as we call them, they are holding ventilators — they don’t want to let them up.”

Trump said he wanted the hoarded ventilators for the problem areas. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been begging the federal government for more ventilators to keep up with hospital demand. The Democratic governor said he would need 30,000 ventilators for the impending “apex” of the outbreak.

The president additionally said that masks at hospitals are disappearing, asking, “Are they going out the back door?”

“How do you go from 10 to 20 to 300,000? Ten to 20,000 masks to 300,000. Even though this is different. Something’s going on. And you ought to look into it as reporters. Where are the masks going?” he wondered. “So somebody should probably look into that.”

When pressed on his comments about the masks later in the briefing, Trump called on Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to “check that.”

“I think people should check that because there’s something going on. I don’t think it’s hoarding. I think it’s maybe worse than hoarding,” he said. “Check it out. I don’t know. I think that’s for other people to figure out.”

Earlier this month, Cuomo expressed concern that face masks and other medical equipment were being stolen from hospitals in the state. So far there have been at least 137,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the US New York has been hit the hardest with at least 33,000 cases.