President Donald Trump on Wednesday did not seem too pleased on Wednesday with a nurse who publicly contradicted him as he sought to highlight the federal government’s efforts to provide additional medical supplies across the country.
The testy exchange came during an Oval Office meeting between Trump and a group of nurses as the president signed a proclamation honoring National Nurses Day amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Asked by a reporter if they were satisfied with the level of supplies, Sophia Thomas, a New Orleans-based nurse and president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, replied that personal protective equipment (PPE) had been “sporadic” but “manageable” in her area.
“I think it’s sporadic. As I talk to my colleagues around the country, certainly there are pockets of areas where PPE is not ideal but this is an unprecedented time,” Thomas said, noting that she had been wearing the same N95 respirator for a few weeks.
“PPE has been sporadic but it’s been manageable,” Thomas continued. “And we do what we have to do. We’re nurses and we learn to adapt and do whatever the best thing that we can do for our patients to get the job done and get the care provided.”
Trump pushed back on the idea that supplies were sporadic across the country. “Sporadic for you but not sporadic for a lot of other people,” the president said.
Thomas replied that she agreed with him after seeing his frustration with her answer.
“Because I have heard the opposite. I have heard that they are loaded up with gowns now,” Trump said. “Initially, we had nothing. We had empty cupboards. We had empty shelves. We had nothing because it wasn’t put there by the last administration.”
Trump then highlighted the millions of masks being produced by a Honeywell facility in Phoenix that he toured on Tuesday.
“For the most part, that was fine, but I have heard that we have tremendous supply to almost all places,” the president continued. “Tremendous supply to a point where we’re going to start having some of our supply go to other countries which need it very badly.”
Trump sparked outrage in late March when he suggested, without evidence, that N95 masks are “going out the back door” of New York hospitals and suggested that reporters should look into his unfounded conspiracy theory.
Trump told reporters “something is going on” with mask usage in New York, openly wondering if they’re being stolen out “the back door” of hospitals.
“How do you go from 10 to 20 to 30,000, to 300,000 – even though this is different,” he said. “Something is going on. And you ought to look into it as reporters. Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door.”
Trump’s own Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that the US would need up to 3.5 billion N95 respirator masks over a year of the pandemic.