Donald Trump and his sidekick, Sen. Lindsey Graham, have an odd way of demonstrating leadership in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump accuses hospitals of ripping off face masks and ventilators. Graham attacks nurses as potential loafers and money grubbers.
Trump, who virtually ignored the crisis until his treasured stock market tanked and deaths began to mount, said there's no way hospitals could need all the face masks and ventilators they've been requesting since the coronavirus appeared.
“How do you go from [10,000] to 20,000 masks [prior to the pandemic] — to 300,000…” he said, “Something’s going on. And you ought to look into it as reporters. Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door? … And we have that happening in numerous places.”
Later, he said, “I don’t think it’s hoarding. I think maybe it’s worse than hoarding.”
So, doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, shoot-from-the hip Trump is on to you. Better stop hoarding face masks and ventilators so you can sell them on the black market. Now, Trump didn't say that, but what else could he have meant?
Here's how Jonathan Chait put it in The New Yorker yesterday:
Trump provided no evidence to support this accusation. It is true that some people have been stealing masks and other medical supplies from hospitals, but Trump’s insinuation that theft is to blame for hospital mask shortages during this pandemic, at a time when hundreds of hospitals across the country — and countries across the world — are all begging for more masks, is insane.
Kenneth E. Raske, the president of the Greater New York Hospital Association responded with a request for the president to help procure more supplies, as reported by Modern Healthcare.
"New York's healthcare workers are treating exploding numbers of COVID-19 patients around the clock – willingly and without complaint. My daughter, an ICU nurse at a New York City hospital, is one of them," Raske said. "Personal protection equipment is the single thing that separates them from being COVID-19 patients themselves. They deserve better than their President suggesting that PPE is 'going out the back door' of New York hospitals."
Modern Healthcare noted that on Sunday, an airplane delivered medical supplies to John F. Kennedy International airport, including 130,000 N95 masks, 1.7 million surgical masks, 12 million gloves, 130,000 containers of hand sanitizer and other critical supplies. It's part of the Trump administration's ongoing effort to catch up with the shortage of personal protective equipment that caught the federal government and hospitals off-guard.
Why were they caught off-guard?
Because Trump dithered from the beginning, ignoring warnings as early as December, that this was coming. It's taken a deep recession, billions in stock market losses, and warnings from Dr. Anthony Fauci that upwards of 200,000 deaths in the U.S. could be coming, to get Trump off his fat ass. Dr. Fauci is the world's most trusted expert on contagious diseases and Trump knows it.
Now, Trump is scrambling, making claims about increasing numbers of tests, forcing car makers to make ventilators, and so on, and with his daily reality-show briefings has convinced people that he's on top of it.
What a joke. Except it's far from funny.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) put it this way on MSNBC this morning:
Of Trump's suggestion that hospitals are doing something nefarious with their face masks and ventilators, she said, "It's a conspiracy theory to distract from the lack of performance, the lack of leadership....He's trying to place blame on others."
These supplies, she said, should have been built up in January, not now in the midst of the catastrophe.
Lindsey Graham's Theory
Then, there is Trump's buddy, Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator who once said Trump is a crazy lunatic who wasn't fit to be president, but now is Trump's bootlicker-in-chief.
Last week, when the Senate was rushing to pass the $2 trillion emergency financial aid package to help American families facing financial ruin from the coronavirus crisis, providing expanded unemployment benefits, Graham tried to hold up the bill's passage because he said nurses could end up making more money by sitting at home unemployed rather than working.
Nurses, as well as doctors and other healthcare workers and first responders are working every day, risking their lives without enough protective equipment, trying to treat those of us who get sick. And Graham questions their motives?
“If you’re a nurse, aide, making $15 or $16 an hour — you’re on the front lines here,” Graham said. “A lot of doctor’s offices are gonna have to roll back because elective surgery is no longer a source of income for a bunch of doctors. So, you’re going to have all these well-trained nurses, they’re going to make $24 an hour on unemployment. You’re literally incentivizing taking people out of the workforce at a time when we need critical infrastructure supply for the workers.”
That was ridiculous. He made that statement on the same day newscasts showed New York City nurses wearing trash bags as protective gear, one of whom has since died from the virus.
Furthermore, most nurses make more than $24 per hour. Even in Graham's state of South Carolina, the average hourly wage for a registered nurse is $30.59, compared to the national average of $35.36 per hour. Plus, you can't collect unemployment compensation if you quit your job, so Graham's entire premise is BS.
Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC), who has come down with the coronavirus himself, blasted Graham for his attack on medical professionals.
“This is appalling,” Cunningham tweeted. “Not one nurse in our state would abdicate his or her duty at a time like this to make a few more bucks an hour.”
You're right, Congressman. It's just as appalling as Trump's dithering and blame-casting that literally is jeopardizing American lives.