President Donald Trump on Sunday suggested that reporters and states should investigate why some hospitals are requesting so many masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Medical suppliers have experienced a massive increase in demand for products like N95 face masks since the outbreak started, said Ed Pesicka, CEO of Owens & Minor, during a press conference. He cited as an example a New York hospital that typically uses 10,000 to 20,000 masks per week, requesting as many as 300,000.
Trump questioned how any hospital could have such an increase in demand for masks, even during the coronavirus outbreak.
"It's a New York hospital. It's packed all the time," Trump said "Something's going on … where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door?"
Kenneth Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, responded with a request for the president to help procure more supplies.
"New York's healthcare workers are treating exploding numbers of COVID-19 patients around the clock—willingly and without complaint. My daughter, an ICU nurse at a New York City hospital, is one of them," Raske said. "Personal protection equipment is the single thing that separates them from being COVID-19 patients themselves. They deserve better than their president suggesting that PPE is 'going out the back door' of New York hospitals."
The proper use of PPE requires a change in supplies between patients. But because clinicians are lacking them, some report having to use one mask all day while others report using garbage bags instead of gowns.
Additionally, some hospitals have reported patients stealing PPE from high-traffic areas.
Trump also referenced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's recent decision to allow Ohio-based supplier Battelle to sterilize N95 face masks, which drew criticism from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican.
"The FDA's decision to severely limit the use of this life-saving technology is nothing short of reckless," DeWine said in a statement.
The FDA will allow Battelle to sterilize 10,000 masks per day, despite the company's claim that it can process up to 80,000.
On Sunday, an airplane delivered medical supplies to New York's John F. Kennedy International airport, including 130,000 N95 masks, 1.7 million surgical masks, 12 million gloves, 130,000 containers of hand sanitizer and other critical supplies. It's part of the Trump administration's ongoing effort to catch up with the shortage of personal protective equipment that caught the federal government and hospitals off guard.