Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

A healthcare worker prepares to transport a patient on a stretcher into an ambulance at Life Care Center of Kirkland on February 29, 2020 in Kirkland, Washington.

A healthcare worker prepares to transport a patient on a stretcher into an ambulance at Life Care Center of Kirkland on February 29, 2020 in Kirkland, Washington. (Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images)

'Insulting' Frontline Health Workers, Trump—Without Evidence—Accuses Hospital Staff in New York of Stealing Protective Gear

"This man is a serious danger to the health and safety of every health care worker in the nation."

Eoin Higgins

President Donald Trump on Sunday suggested that nurses and doctors in New York, the area in the U.S. hardest-hit thus far by the coronavirus outbreak, are stealing and selling facemasks and other protective gear meant to keep them safe as they handle an unprecedented influx of patients sick with the disease spreading across the country. 

"Where are the masks going, are they going out the backdoor?" Trump said, implying that healthcare workers were smuggling personal proteective equipment (PPE) out of hospitals for resale on the black market. 

"There's something going on. I don't think it's hoarding. I think it's maybe worse than hoarding," the president added, telling the assembled reporters to look into it.

CNN journalist Daniel Dale said the remarks were both "vague and evidenceless."

Trump made the comments "without providing evidence" of alleged thefts or other criminality during a Sunday afternoon press conference on his administration's handling of the coronavirus where the president announced that social distancing would be recommended through at least April 30—a reversal of an earlier pledge to have the country "back to work" by Easter. The president's suggestion that healthcare workers are stealing PPE came in response to a question on how the White House has handled requests from state and local officials for more protective gear as hospitals run out.

"That's just insensitive and it's unhelpful," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio replied Monday.

According to Vox, the shortage of PPE could limit the number of healthcare workers who are available to manage the crisis just as it peaks:

Health care professionals and experts say we now have a shortage of masks, gowns, gloves, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for doctors, nurses, and other medical staff. In this environment, health care workers worry they might get sick—perhaps forcing them to take up a hospital bed that would otherwise go to someone else—or die. Privately, some say they may not be able to show up to work at all under these conditions.

The situation not only threatens health care workers' well-being, it could limit US health care capacity even as experts warn we need to scale up to confront the rise in coronavirus cases.

The administration's response to the coronavirus has come under criticism as a failed and lethargic reaction to what is already one of the worst health crises in modern memory.

As HuffPost reported:

Hospitals and medical professionals have for weeks warned that stockpiles of medical supplies would not last throughout the pandemic. States have been bidding against each other to get equipment; doctors have resorted to reusing masks in some areas; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention went so far as to tell health care providers to use homemade gear like bandanas or scarves "if necessary."

"Given the chance to prepare hospitals and health-care workers for the expected influx of covid-19 patients, the Trump administration did not take action to build up supplies of the vital equipment experts knew would be needed," medical historian Deborah Levine wrote Monday for the Washington Post. "Indeed, the administration has so far refused to use the Defense Production Act, or DPA, to ramp up production of even fairly basic but essential medical supplies, despite many urgent calls to do so."

As Common Dreams has reported, the lack of PPE available for healthcare workers has led nurses and doctors to feel they are being "sent to battle with no armor" as they plead with government officials to help with providing the lifesaving equipment. 

In an opinion piece for Common Dreams Monday, Dr. Sanjeev K. Sriram called on the president to use his authority under the Defense Production Act (DPA) to ramp up the manufacturing of PPE and other needed medical equipment:

What this public health crisis demands exceeds whatever corporate charity can deliver. What health care workers need right now is not goodwill, but willpower. We need the president to use the Defense Production Act to its fullest capability. So far, Trump has used the DPA to force one company (General Motors) to make one product (ventilators). Based on reports, it also sounds like Trump invoked the DPA as a punishment toward GM and its CEO Mary Barra, with whom he has long-standing sexist animosity.

The reaction to the president's comments shifting blame for the lack of equipment onto those who are desperate for relief was swift and harsh.

"Has anyone pointed out that this man is a serious danger to the health and safety of every health care worker in the nation?" wondered National Nurses United communications director Charles Idelson.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Monday rejected the president's comments as "insulting" to healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.

"They are showing up to work, not sure they'll have the personal protective gear, they're risking their lives, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that, and then they're going home and potentially exposing their families to this," said Gupta. "To suggest they're hoarding it, stealing it, taking out the back door, I think that was the rest of that quote, I think that is insulting."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Ocasio-Cortez Endorses Entire Slate of Democratic Socialists in NY

"As AOC knows," DSA For the Many tweeted, "when we fight together, we win together!"

Brett Wilkins ·


'Counting Dollars While They Were Counting Bodies': Abbott Attended Fundraiser Hours After Massacre

"The same governor who told Beto O'Rourke this isn't the time for politics took the time to stop at a political fundraiser for himself after he knew... kids had been murdered in a Texas elementary school."

Jake Johnson ·


Bernie Sanders, Lindsey Graham to Kick Off New Debate Series

Sanders, an independent democratic socialist, and Graham, a far-right Trump ally, are set to square off in a televised debate on June 13.

Kenny Stancil ·


'We Refuse to Go On Like This': US Students Walk Out to Demand Gun Control

"We are walking out because we refuse to accept a country where gunfire can ring out at any moment," said student organizers in California.

Julia Conley ·


With 'Bounty-Hunting' Law, Oklahoma Enacts Nation's First Total Ban on Abortion

"For the first time in nearly 50 years, abortion is illegal—at every stage of pregnancy—in an American state," said the head of Planned Parenthood Great Plains.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo