President Donald Trump once again deflected blame for his administration’s response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than 1.2 million people across the country, saying he had been too busy with probes into his conduct as president to ensure the federal stockpile of medical supplies was prepared for a pandemic.
“Well, I’ll be honest, I have a lot of things going on,” Trump told ABC News anchor David Muir on Tuesday. “We had a lot of people that refused to allow the country to be successful. They wasted a lot of time on Russia, Russia, Russia. That turned out to be a total hoax. Then they did Ukraine, Ukraine, and that was a total hoax. Then they impeached the president of the United States for absolutely no reason.”
Trump has regularly cast blame on those in the White House before him, saying falsely that he was left with “empty cupboards” three years ago when he replaced then-President Barack Obama. The country has what’s known as the Strategic National Stockpile of medical equipment to help protect Americans in the face of biological or natural disasters, the country’s largest supply of such gear. It was described as an $8 billion armory just last November.
The Washington Post toured some of the facilities in 2018, more than a year into Trump’s term, and described hundreds of thousands of shrink-wrapped boxes that, among other things, contained enough vaccines to protect every American from smallpox. But the stockpile had some shortcomings, and face mask supplies hadn’t been substantially replenished since the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.
Medical facilities across the country have since struggled to access personal protective equipment like gowns and gloves throughout the pandemic, and governors have been forced to plead or dramatically overpay to bolster their supply of ventilators. The U.S. government’s emergency stockpile was close to running out in early April, The Washington Post reported at the time, just as cases of the coronavirus began to surge across the nation. And thousands of the emergency ventilators didn’t work due to a maintenance issue.
Trump also spent the early weeks of the pandemic refuting doctors’ claims that they didn’t have adequate protective gear, going so far as to question the use of face masks by hospitals treating an influx of patients. The Associated Press reported in March that former Obama administration officials said Trump’s administration had effectively “wasted” months in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak before ordering critical supplies needed to help treat infected Americans.
More than 1.2 million people have now been infected with the virus in the United States and more than 70,000 have died.
Muir pressed the president on medical professionals’ concerns as the White House urges some areas of the U.S. to reopen to kickstart the economy, including fears there could be a resurgence in cases and an uptick in deaths.
“It’s possible there will be some, because you won’t be locked into an apartment or a house or whatever it is,” Trump said. “But at the same time, we’re going to practice social distancing. We’re going to be washing hands, we’re going to be doing a lot of things that we’ve learned to do.”
He continued: “Will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon.”
The president went on to tout his efforts to close the country’s border with China, saying he did so against the advice of health officials and to the boon of the country.
“Let me tell you this. I closed the border if you want to use that term, I banned people from coming into China,” he said. “I came in and what I did is, I said against many people, including Anthony Fauci, who I like very much, including Deborah, who I like very much, the doctors, and many other people…”
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