Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo slammed President Donald Trump for his call to distribute federal ventilators the state had in storage as the two leaders' war of words over the coronavirus pandemic escalates.
Cuomo argued that the ventilators were stored in preparation for when New York hospitals exceed their capacity as the state has become the epicenter of the American coronavirus outbreak. Cuomo told CNN on Friday that Trump's assessment of the situation 'incorrect and grossly uninformed.'
'Of course we didn't -- that's the whole point,' Cuomo said. 'The hospitals don't need them yet. The hospitals aren't at their apex. The hospitals have enough ventilators today, but their numbers are going up.'
Cuomo added that his office was planning for a peak in cases 'in about 21 days -- that's when we need the 30,000 ventilators, not today.'
'So the point is, 'well they're in a stockpile, you must not need them' is just ignorant -- of course you don't need them today!' Cuomo continued. 'You need them when you hit the apex, which is 30,000. We're not there yet.'
Trump had earlier tweeted that New York should distribute the ventilators immediately. That statement came hours after Trump said in a Fox News interview that he doubted states calling for tens of thousands of ventilators would need them.
'Thousand of Federal Government (delivered) Ventilators found in New York storage,' Trump tweeted Friday. 'N.Y. must distribute NOW!'
Trump and Cuomo, two Queens natives prone to shifting quickly between approval and antagonism, have known each other for years. But coordinating the federal and state response to New York's outbreak, which saw a running total of at least 44,635 cases and 519 deaths on Friday, has put a spotlight on their alternately frosty and supportive working relationship.
A White House official told CNN that Cuomo's pressers have become mandatory viewing in the West Wing, with the New York governor's command and directness driving Trump's own desire to use the briefing room every day to drive coverage of the coronavirus. The two men are interacting multiple times each day, according to sources familiar with their interactions, with the duo speaking upwards of three or four times on some days.
Trump's comments Friday suggested that his stance had taken a turn with regards to the ventilators since Thursday night, when the President told Sean Hannity on Fox News that he was 'getting along' with Cuomo but slammed the governor for wanting tens of thousands of ventilators, which the President doubts are necessary.
'And they say, like Governor Cuomo and others, that say we want 30,000 of them. 30,000. Think of this,' Trump told Hannity. 'You go to hospitals who have, don't even have one, in a hospital and all of a sudden everybody is asking for vast numbers.'
He added later, 'But generally speaking, I'm getting along very well with Governor Cuomo.'
When asked about Trump's dismissal of his projected ventilator needs later Friday, Cuomo told CNN's Erin Burnett, 'I hope the President's right. I'll go better than what the President said -- I hope I don't need any ventilators.'
'But I can't govern that way -- I govern on the data and on the numbers and on the science,' he said, adding that if 'you count the numbers and the trajectory, we're looking at 40,000 possible ventilators, 140,000 possible hospital beds -- those are the numbers.'
Cuomo highlighted his and Trump's working relationship, stressing that 'this is no time for politics -- this is a time for exquisite coordination between the federal government and the state governments, because we need each other.'
He also praised Trump for invoking the Defense Production Act, because it 'gives him the muscle of the law to get companies to actually respond to the production of ventilators, which is exactly what we want,' Cuomo said, later adding that Trump 'needs (accelerated production) and he's right -- these ventilators are going to be the matter of life and death.'
But the New York governor also got in one jab, when asked about Trump's assertion during Friday's coronavirus briefing that the federal government sent ventilators for New York to a New Jersey warehouse 'at the time they were complaining about it.'
'First I've heard that the warehouse was in New Jersey, funny way of delivering it to New York,' he said. 'But I knew very well that the federal government has delivered 4,000 ventilators.'
This story has been updated with additional information.