In the chaotic early days of the COVID crisis, there was one fact we knew for certain about the situation in New York state: The ventilators just weren’t there.
Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo would rail at the federal government during his coronavirus media briefings. Ventilators were needed! Without thousands of ventilators, people would die! The Trump administration isn’t getting Cuomo those ventilators!
The governor’s rhetoric on the issue was just as overheated as the media coverage was. He’s emerged as one of the political stars of the pandemic, if just because the same cable channels who bleat about having to play host to President Donald Trump’s media briefings every afternoon had no problem airing Cuomo’s.
They also didn’t particularly challenge anything he said, so the assumption — a good one, given what everyone was saying — was that people were dying for lack of the mechanical ventilation devices.
Splitting ventilators became a top story on the news, more sad proof of our woeful unpreparedness to face the coronavirus crisis.
The Trump administration was lambasted for its inability to provide ventilators to the city.
The Chinese government, which mismanaged coronavirus containment from day one — and through malfeasance, mind you, not just administrative bungling — was feted by both the governor and the media after Chinese billionaires gave the state ventilators.
The devices were, in effect, the entire ballgame — which is why I was slightly confused to run across this clip from the Trump War Room, an official Trump social media account:
Democrat Governor of New York: “Have we saved everyone? No. But have we lost anyone because we didn’t have a bed, or we didn’t have a ventilator, or we didn’t have health care staff? No. People we lost are the people we couldn’t save.”pic.twitter.com/eONgDhWFGi
— Trump War Room – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) April 14, 2020
“Have we saved everyone? No,” Cuomo said on April 6.
“But have we lost anyone because we didn’t have a bed or we didn’t have a ventilator or we didn’t have health care staff? No,” he said. “The people we lost are the people we couldn’t save.”
I wondered if this were out of context. It wasn’t. According to a transcript from Rev, it came during a portion of the media briefing where he discussed the amount of control the New York state government apparatus had over whether an individual lived or died from COVID-19.
“We like to think that we can control everything. We can’t. We like to think that we can fix everything and fix all the problems for people. We can’t,” Cuomo said.
“The undeniable truth here is that this virus is a deadly enemy and we will lose and we are losing people who are vulnerable to the virus. That can’t be controlled, that can’t be fixed. Why? That’s mother nature. That’s a question that God can only answer.
“But control what you can, do what you can. The challenge is to make sure that we don’t lose anyone who could have been saved if our healthcare system was operating fully. Don’t lose anyone who you could save. That is a legitimate, ambitious goal of government.”
However, if his government hasn’t lost anyone because it didn’t have the ventilators, doesn’t it also follow that the Trump administration, at the very least, helped meet that “legitimate, ambitious goal”?
To the extent this quote was highlighted when it happened, it was as part of the fact that New York was approaching the peak of the coronavirus curve. This peak, by the way, required far fewer resources than models had anticipated, including over 75 percent fewer hospital beds than were anticipated.
Why wasn’t it reported more widely? I suppose we can brainstorm and come up with a whole host of reasons. The Orange Man Bad storyline plays better than reporting the government and the administration did their jobs and that there was nothing to see here. There was admitting the models had been as overheated as the coverage itself. And then there’s the fact their new superstar himself played a role in New York’s ventilator shortage, having failed to heed the recommendations in a 2015 task force report saying that in the event of a pandemic like the 1918 flu, New York would need almost 10,000 more of the devices.
The bottom line is that none of that matters. It’s a good thing that New York had enough ventilators. It’d also be a good thing if we acknowledged they did.
The president has not caused COVID-19 deaths in the state of New York by depriving people of ventilators — and the lingering idea he’s responsible for that is totally fact-free.
Just ask Andrew Cuomo.
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