The hits just keep coming for Trump son-in-law, slumlord, real estate failure and so-called wunderkind, Jared Kushner. As reported by Vanity Fair, Kushner reportedly told Donald Trump to “push back” against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, telling people in a White House meeting that Cuomo was exaggerating the need for ventilators in his state. Trump then followed up by echoing this position on Fox News, suggesting that Kushner’s belief has guided the administration’s policy on the issue.
Jared has made a point of adding to his vast store of knowledge during the pandemic, so much that he now heads up a “shadow” coronavirus task force within the White House (apparently to keep the “real” White House task force honest). As Kushner has Trump’s erratic ear, this “shadow” task force is actually vested with more power than the original one, a fact which its leader has no qualms about emphasizing.
“This was a total mess,” Kushner told people when he got involved last month. “I know how to make this government run now,” he said, according to a source.
Kushner isn’t lying. He does know how to make the government run—into the ground.
In recent days Kushner has advocated for his usual, iconoclastic public-private approach, drawing on business contacts. Last week he called Wall Street executives and asked for advice on how to help New York, people briefed on the conversation said. Kushner encouraged Trump to push back against New York governor Andrew Cuomo after Cuomo gave an emotional press conference during which he said New York was short 30,000 ventilators. In a White House meeting around this time, Kushner told people that Cuomo was being an alarmist. “I have all this data about ICU capacity. I’m doing my own projections, and I’ve gotten a lot smarter about this. New York doesn’t need all the ventilators,” Kushner said, according to a person present.
In this administration, “policy,” to the extent it exists at all, is executed on the fly, depending on whatever whim enters the President’s mind. It’s reasonable to assume that given his position in the family, whatever Jared tells Trump finds itself becoming the actual “policy,” at least for the time being (particularly since, as the Vanity Fair article notes, the administration is now operating without a Chief of Staff). On March 26 Trump echoed the Kushner line to Fox News collaborator Sean Hannity, saying New York didn’t need “40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.” Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci told Jake Tapper on CNN that he had no reason to doubt Cuomo’s estimates.
As for the actual response, Trump on Wednesday assured the nation that “we’re soon going to have more ventilators than we need…more than we can use, even…[.]”
“We’re building thousands of ventilators right now. It takes a period of time to build them. And again, nobody could have known anything like this could happen.”
It’s still not clear exactly who is building these “thousands” of ventilators, and no time frame describing when they will actually be manufactured, shipped or distributed has been provided.
The Society of Critical Care Medicine projected that as many as 960,000 domestic COVID-19 patients may need to use a ventilator sometime during the outbreak, but the organization estimates only around 200,000 of these devices exist in the U.S. Of those, they say that roughly half are older models that may not be reliable for critically-ill individuals. Many ventilators are also still being used for non-coronavirus patients.
The shortage of ventilators in New York City is now well-documented. Federal authorities scavenged the dwindling emergency stockpile last week and sent about four thousand ventilators to New York state, half of which were earmarked for New York City. Unfortunately, many of them were missing parts and did not work.
Yesterday, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio told news sources that the city will need 400 more ventilators by Sunday of this week, 2500-3500 by the end of next week, and at least 15000 by May 1, when infections are expected to peak. Assuming the crisis does not magically end on May 2, it is reasonable to assume they will need an equivalent number by the end of June. In other words, figures that are right in line with Governor Cuomo’s original estimates, which were for the whole state. Which Jared Kushner didn’t believe, because he has become “a lot smarter about this.”
If those ventilators are not provided, thousands of New Yorkers are going to die, despite– and perhaps because of–what Jared Kushner thinks.