President Donald Trump grew dismissive — even irritable — with reporters on Monday who asked him about a new government report that laid out the urgent supply situation and testing problems many hospitals are dealing with while treating patients in the coronavirus pandemic.
The report from the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general, issued earlier Monday, showed hospitals nationwide have been dealing with “severe shortages of testing supplies” and “frequently waiting [seven] days or longer for test results” as well as a “widespread shortage” of personal protective equipment and “difficulty maintaining” necessary staffing and capacity for what hospitals expect will be a larger wave of coronavirus cases.
The report was based on a survey of administrators from 323 hospitals around the country.
“I know you don’t want to talk about the inspector general’s report, but testing is still a big issue in this country,” Fox News reporter Kristin Fisher told the president on Monday during the daily coronavirus briefing. “When can hospitals expect to receive a quick turnaround of these test results?”
Trump, 73, sighed and looked away as Fisher asked her question before saying hospitals and states should handle their own testing results. “We’re the federal government,” he said. “We’re not supposed to stand on street corners doing testing.”
He also boasted of an “incredible job” with the daily testing rate now and reiterated a familiar argument defending how the federal government has rolled out coronavirus testing kits.
Instead of talking about the initial flaws with the tests from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year, which hamstrung the ability of states to track the number of cases they had, the president claimed he had inherited and overhauled an “obsolete” system.
“You should say, ‘Congratulations, good job,’ instead of being so horrid in the way you ask a question,” Trump said.
When Fisher asked another question about the report, the president said it was “wrong” and suggested it could have been politically motivated.
ABC News’ Jonathan Karl also asked Trump about the report at the briefing, drawing the ire of the president who has regularly attacked reporters he deems too negative as the “enemy of the people.”
Trump asked when Christi Grimm, the HHS inspector general, was appointed and Karl said she began working under President Barack Obama.
“Oh, you didn’t tell me that!” Trump said sarcastically. “Oh, I see. You didn’t tell me that, Jon. You mean the Obama administration? Thank you for telling me that. See, there’s the typical fake-news deal.”
“I told you when she was appointed,” Karl replied as the two spoke over one another.
“Look, you’re a third-rate reporter,” Trump said. “And what you just said is a disgrace, okay?”
The president added moments later: “You will never make it.”
Trump has lashed out, argued with or scolded various reporters in recent weeks. He has been holding daily coronavirus updates from the West Wing — but hasn’t been shy about using a confrontational tone more familiar from his rallies.
Even in a time of widespread uncertainty, with the coronavirus pandemic, the president has also described the news conferences in his favorite terms: TV ratings.
“Because the ‘Ratings’ of my News Conferences etc. are so high, ‘Bachelor finale, Monday Night Football type numbers’ according to the @nytimes, the Lamestream Media is going CRAZY. ‘Trump is reaching too many people, we must stop him.’ said one lunatic. See you at 5:00 P.M.!” Trump tweeted in late March.
The number of U.S. deaths due to the coronavirus pandemic surpassed 10,000 on Monday, according to a New York Times tracker. By Tuesday, that number passed 11,000, and the number of total confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. was at least 367,000.
“Hospitals reported that changing and sometimes inconsistent guidance from federal, state and local authorities posed challenges and confused hospitals and the public,” the HHS inspector general’s report read, adding, “Hospitals also reported concerns that public misinformation has increased hospital workloads at a critical time.”
When Karl pointed out to Trump that the inspector general’s report was based on interviews with administrators at hundreds of hospitals, he maintained, “It still could’ve been her opinion.”
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.
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