'I operate on the data and on the numbers': Cuomo responds to Trump ventilator claims

The NY governor spoke out about the coronavirus response in an interview with "NBC Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt.

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By Dareh Gregorian

Andrew Cuomo is pushing back on President Donald Trump's assertion that New York doesn't need the tens of thousands of ventilators the governor has requested to meet the coronavirus health crisis.

In an interview on Friday with "NBC Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt, Cuomo said of the president, "I hope he's right."

"I hope no one gets sick," Cuomo said. "I hope no one needs a ventilator. But — I don't operate on what I hope or what I would like to see or what my expectation is. I operate on the data and on the numbers and on the science. And every projection I have, from multiple sources, and these are worldwide health experts, say that we have to be prepared for an apex of 140,000 hospital beds and 40,000 ICU beds with ventilators."

On Thursday night, Trump said he was skeptical of Cuomo's request, telling Fox News' Sean Hannity in a telephone interview that he had "a feeling" some states were asking for more equipment than they needed.

"I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators," Trump said.

Cuomo told NBC News, "That's a numerical projection from the rate of increase. My job is to follow that science, follow that data. I hope they're wrong. I hope I don't need 40,000. I hope I don't need 30,000."

The interview was conducted in Manhattan's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has converted into a 1,000-bed hospital.

"I hope this whole facility, Lester, stays empty and we built it for nothing," Cuomo said.

While Cuomo, a Democrat, and Trump have generally been complimentary of each other during the coronavirus crisis, Cuomo was critical earlier this week after FEMA arranged to send just 400 ventilators to New York City.

"You want a pat on the back for sending 400 ventilators when we need 30,000?" Cuomo told reporters on Tuesday. Trump fired back during a Fox News town hall, where he complained Cuomo "should have ordered the ventilators" years earlier so the state would have been better prepared.

Vice President Mike Pence said later Tuesday that another 4,000 ventilators were being sent to New York. Those ventilators were the source of another spat between Trump and the governor's office Friday. Trump complained on Twitter that the highly coveted equipment had been put into storage. "N.Y. must distribute NOW!" Trump wrote.

Cuomo's top aide, Melissa DeRosa, tweeted in response that the respirators the state has received so far have been "deployed to the strategic stockpile." "We don't know which hospitals will have the need yet — this is evolving in real time," she added. "We have to be smart about what we have & be able to move on a dime."

Cuomo told reporters Friday that projections show the number of coronavirus cases in his state — which already has the most in the country — will hit its peak in three weeks.