President Donald Trump contradicted a nurse he was honoring in the Oval Office on Wednesday, insisting there are no personal protective equipment shortages in the US despite her account that availability could be “sporadic.”
A reporter asked the nurses attending the National Nurse Day event if their PPE supplies are where they need to be amid the coronavirus pandemic, and many of them nodded in agreement or answered affirmatively.
“I think it’s sporadic,” answered Sophia L. Thomas, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. “I mean, I talk to my colleagues around the country. Certainly there are pockets around the country where PPE is not ideal, but this is an unprecedented time.”
Thomas said she works at a community health center in New Orleans, and that her youngest Covid-19 patient was 4 days old.
“The infection control measures that we learned back when we went to school, one gown and one mask for one patient per day – this is a different time,” she said, adding that she has been reusing a single N95 mask for “a few weeks now.”
“PPE has been sporadic, but it’s been manageable. And we do what we have to do,” Thomas said. “We are nurses and we learn to adapt and do whatever we can do for our patients to get the job done and the care provided, and that’s what we will continue to do as Covid-19 continues.”
Despite her firsthand experience, Trump disputed Thomas’ account.
“Sporadic for you but not sporadic for a lot of other people,” the President told her.
“Oh no, I agree, Mr. President,” she answered.
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“Because I’ve heard the opposite,” Trump said. “I have heard that they are loaded up with gowns now. We had empty shelves and empty nothing because it wasn’t put there by the last administration.”
Front-line health workers have reported shortages of PPE as the virus has swept through the country, and the White House has worked to facilitate ramped-up production of items such as masks and gowns since the pandemic started.
This story has been updated to include additional reporting.