Trump Health Official Gets Tag-Teamed By John Berman and Sanjay Gupta in Brutal Coronavirus Grilling
Trump CMS chief Seema Verma ran into a hail of well-informed questions on CNN, and once again had little in the way of useful answers to the questions posed by anchor John Berman and medical expert Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Verma followed up her disastrous Fox News interview by sitting for an excruciating 13-minute grilling on Friday morning’s edition of New Day, during which Berman and Gupta swatted away every excuse and pressed for answers that Verma simply didn’t have.
Verma got a minute’s peace at the top of the interview with an anodyne question about social distancing, but then Berman played Dr. Anthony Fauci’s admission that the testing session has been “a failing.”
“How has this failed, administrator?” Berman asked.
Verma wandered around an answer, saying “Well I think the testing system that we have, and it was set up when these types of issues come up, has been basically it happens through the public health system in our public health laboratories, but if we want to have the widespread testing that we need, this needs to come up through the private sector, and that’s why the conversations…”
“Well I don’t know about that, I don’t know about that administrator,” Berman interrupted. “Look, pandemics are something that all governments plan for, it’s something we’ve been told the Bush administration plan for, the Obama administration planned for, it is something that was done in a workshop in the transition from the Obama administration to the Trump administration.
Berman then noted the high rate of testing in South Korea, and asked “How is it that the United States, as of two days ago, had only tested 11,000 people total?”
“Well I think it’s fair to say we need to do more testing,” Verma admitted, then said “and that’s why we’re working with the private sector to bring up the capacity to do more testing.”
Berman then played video of a Florida woman named Dawn Clements who described, between coughing fits, her inability to be tested.
“Is it the position of the task force currently that Dawn Clements needs to get a test?” Berman asked.
“I think that people need to make the decision about testing with their doctors,” Verma said, seconds after admitting there aren’t enough tests.
Berman then asked Verma the question that tripped her up on Fox News” Whether the U.S. “has enough ventilators to meet a possible surge in cases of coronavirus?”
“One of the things that we have to prepare for situations like this is a stockpile, and there’s over 12, almost 13,000 ventilators that we have so that if communities hospitals other organizations need to have these ventilators, we can ship that out to them so we do have a stockpile of materials of protective equipment and we’re working with hospitals to make sure that they understand what’s available,” Verma said.
“Do we have enough?” Berman said, as Verma powered her way through another chunk on mitigation.
“I understand, I just want to know that if it doesn’t work, if we have enough?” Berman asked, to which Verma replied, “The stockpile is there, and we hope that it is adequate.”
That’s when Dr. Gupta joined the fray, telling Verma “We know what we need. With a moderate pandemic we would need at least 64,000 ventilators. That’s about the number that exists, and then you add in the stockpile, 72, or so is what we have in the country. The problem is as you know, many of them are currently being used because it’s flu season. It really does seem like there’s a shortfall. How can you possibly say that we have enough to handle what is coming?”
Verma tepidly replied that, “At this time, we’ve only had a couple of requests for ventilators,” then deflected to mitigation again, and praised Trump’s recent European travel ban.
Berman interrupted to say “Respectfully, respectfully though, administrator, banning travel from Europe doesn’t do anything for the cases that are already here, and we don’t know how many cases are already here because we haven’t been testing, correct?”
Dr. Gupta again explained the issue with hospital capacity if the pandemic gets much worse, and said “I don’t want to be too dire here but the concern is that there might be preventable deaths. You have to act now, don’t you?”
When Verma tried to dodge the question by talking about mitigation again, Gupta interjected “I’m talking about the ventilators.”
“We have ventilators,” Verma said, to which Gupta again noted “You don’t have enough ventilators.”
Verma then tried to dispute Dr. Gupta by saying, ” I think at this point it’s premature to say that we don’t have enough. I don’t think we know that right now.”
“Those are the federal government’s numbers. Those are the projections from the federal government, which looks at moderate pandemics, we’re not making those numbers up. The numbers came from the government. If you want to prepare ahead now would be the time because this happens in hours and days, we no longer have days and weeks,” Dr. Gupta said.
Verma then referenced “aggressive” actions like the travel ban, and Berman interrupted to say “You say aggressive actions, if you had believed in the European travel ban, the time would have been 4 weeks ago. Not tonight.”
As Verma protested he was “second-guessing,” Berman told her “Part of preparing for a pandemic is to do it beforehand, that’s what preparation means.”
Both Verma and HHS Secretary Alex Azar are being roasted over their failures to answer basic questions on the pandemic, while at the same time officials who do give straight answers — like Dr. Anthony Fauci — are delivering messages that are less than encouraging. Fauci’s answers at least have the benefit of being actual answers that are, to the best of his knowledge, true.
Watch the full interview above via CNN.
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