Fact-checking Trump on coronavirus: No, nurses and doctors aren't stealing supplies

Donald Trump’s lies and distortions have grown increasingly hostile as the number of COVID-19 cases grow and the death toll mounts.

Here are some of his latest claims, fact-checked for accuracy. 

March 29

“They’ve been delivering for years 10,000 to 20,000 masks. OK it’s a New York hospital, it’s packed all the time. How do you go from 10,000 to 20,000 to 300,000 ... even though this is different? Something's going on, and you oughta look into it. Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door?" — Trump at a White House news conference.

Trump on Sunday seemed to lay blame for the lack of personal protective equipment — such as masks and gowns for doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals — on hospital staff.

 
 

There is no evidence that health care professionals are stealing PPE. 

In reality, the lack of proper protective gear may be to blame for at least one death in New York City. Earlier this month, Kious Kelly, a nurse manager at Mount Sinai West in Manhattan, died of COVID-19 after being placed on a ventilator in the intensive care unit. His fellow nurses — who say they had resorted to wearing trash bags because of the lack of PPE — said they had been told to “reuse our masks, gowns and ... [face] shield[s],” due to a shortage of supplies. 

“We were told, ‘You get one for the entire time until this is over,’” one nurse told the New York Post.

Trump is facing criticism from governors across the country, who say that he is not helping level the playing field for states to receive affordable PPE and other life-saving medical equipment. 

“I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that.” — Trump at a White House news conference on previous comments he made saying he didn’t “believe” New York needed more ventilators.

At Sunday’s news conference, Trump lied and denied ever stating that New York doesn’t actually need the 30,000 to 40,000 ventilators Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has requested.

Trump said exactly that on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s program three days earlier.

"I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers being said in some areas, they’re just bigger than they’re going to be. I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” Trump said on March 26.

"They're carrying out contracts to build ventilators, and they’ve started already." — Trump on General Motors at his press briefing.

This lie has been debunked numerous times.

While Trump claims that life-saving ventilators are in the works, General Motors told CNN’s Daniel Dale over the weekend that the company is not yet producing ventilators. 

It takes time for companies to amend their production lines to make a totally new kind of device. Instead of starting this process weeks ago, Trump has dragged his feet on actually invoking the Defense Production Act, which allows a president to force companies to produce necessary equipment in war time. 

“If we can hold that down … to have between 100,000 and 200,000 we’ve all together done a very good job.” — Trump on the rising number of COVID-19 deaths.

Trump over the weekend attempted to lower expectations regarding his administration’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

He explained that without any efforts, models showed there could be more than 2 million deaths, so if there were between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths that should be considered a win.

Of course, Trump had access to a pandemic preparation plan long ago that could have greatly reduced the number of expected deaths. According to Politico, the administration was briefed on the 69-page National Security Council playbook, titled "Playbook for early response to high consequence emerging infectious disease threats and biological incidents," back in 2017. However, according to the outlet, “it never went through a full, National Security Council-led interagency process to be approved as Trump administration strategy.”

The 200,000 deaths experts have predicted might occur from the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak would be more than the Vietnam War (58,220 Americans), the Korean War (54,246 Americans), the Iraq War (4,431 Americans), and the war in Afghanistan (2,353 Americans), combined.

“Because the ‘Ratings’ of my News Conferences etc. are so high, ‘Bachelor finale, Monday Night Football type numbers’ according to the @nytimes, the Lamestream Media is going CRAZY. ‘Trump is reaching too many people, we must stop him.’ said one lunatic. See you at 5:00 P.M.!” — Trump in a March 29 tweet.

Reporters at media outlets have begged television executives to stop airing Trump’s daily coronavirus briefings in full, saying that they are exposing the public to Trump’s lies and distortions of the pandemic and doing a disservice to the country.

“These White House sessions — ostensibly meant to give the public critical and truthful information about this frightening crisis — are in fact working against that end,” Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote in a column about why networks should stop airing the news conferences in full. “Rather, they have become a daily stage for Trump to play his greatest hits to captive audience members. They come in search of life-or-death information, but here’s what they get from him instead: Self-aggrandizement… Media-bashing… Exaggeration and outright lies.”

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