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By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Doctor wearing N95 mask (Image source: Public domain)
The coronavirus pandemic has created shortages of everything. While disinfectant and hand sanitizer makes sense, there is also a strange shortage of toilet paper. Hospitals have been complaining about being out of supplies since nearly the beginning. Each day it seems worse and worse for them. Supplies are rationed, and they're faced with reusing equipment that is meant to be disposable to keep it sanitary.
These stories have been dominating the news every day. Yet, Donald Trump's senior admin, Jared Kushner, who also happens to be his son-in-law, made comments that it was only through "friends" that the president heard from on Thursday that he learned New York's public hospital system was in need of N95 masks.
Hospital workers have been begging for more protective gear for weeks. There are videos up all over social media of their personal stories of reusing masks, wearing trash bags as gowns, and asking for local donations. Some have been seen wearing bandanas in lieu of masks.
The national stockpile is low. This is something else that has been talked about often. Trump has held phone meetings with governors regarding their needs to dip into the national storage. These governors are bidding against each other to get their share of what's left.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had previously recommended using N95 masks when treating patients suspected of having COVID-19. But after the shortage, they changed the guidance to the N95s only being used when performing procedures that might cause a patient to "aerosolize" the virus.
Yet, Kushner said in his comments that Trump had only learned of New York's shortage of equipment through "friends" on Thursday morning. Surely Trump would have been clued in to the CDC's changing recommendation and the reason.
Kushner spoke of his work with the federal government's "supply chain task force" and said his father-in-law had been very "hands on" and "instructed us to leave no stone unturned" when sourcing for protective gear and other equipment, such as ventilators.
"Very early this morning I got a call from the president," he said. "He told me he was hearing from friends of his in New York that the New York public hospital system was running low on critical supply."
Kushner called Dr. Mitchell Katz, the CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, and was told they needed N95 masks the most. Kushner grabbed a month's worth from the federal inventory. Trump then called Mayor Bill de Blasio to say the N95 masks were on the way.
This is after the Trump administration had been saying for days that masks were on their way to hospitals in the U.S. The chief of the supply task force, Admiral John Polowczyk, couldn't explain why the masks hadn't been shipped but did say they were releasing more into the private market.
The larger question isn't why the government didn't know about the shortage, as it's apparent that they did. The larger question is why Kushner is trying to position himself as the savior in the pandemic. The way he told the story New York's hospitals are only getting the masks because he called and arranged for them after learning about the need from Trump's call with his friends.
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