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Cuomo shifts approach when he thinks Trump's response lags

Left: President Donald Trump speaks during a Fox

Left: President Donald Trump speaks during a Fox News Channel virtual town hall at the White House, Tuesday in Washington. Right: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to the media at the Javits Convention Center which is being turned into a hospital to help fight coronavirus cases on Tuesday. Credit: AP/Getty/AP Photo/Evan Vucci / Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

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With the number of coronavirus cases skyrocketing overnight, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo expressed anger and alarm Tuesday with the Trump administration’s response to a pandemic that is accelerating in New York like a “bullet train.”

In a marked change, Cuomo, a Democrat, dropped the friendly and collegial tone he had been using when speaking about President Donald Trump’s efforts to confront the pandemic.

He didn’t call out the president by name. Yet Cuomo issued a blistering attack. He blamed the administration for what the governor called patting itself on the back, failing to use its powers to ramp up supplies and fundamentally “missing the magnitude of the problem.”

It reflected a change in tactics to try to prod a quicker federal response.

“You want a pat on the back for sending us 400 ventilators? What are we going to do with 400 ventilators when we need 30,000 ventilators?” Cuomo said at the Javits Center where officials are trying to hastily build a temporary hospital. “You’re missing the magnitude of the problem, and the problem is defined by the magnitude.”

If supplies aren’t sent rapidly, Cuomo, speaking figuratively to the federal government, said: “You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die.”

Trump, speaking later on Fox News, blamed Cuomo for not having an adequate number of ventilators. Vice President Mike Pence struck a more conciliatory tone, saying supplies were on the way to New York.

Cuomo blasted Trump for not invoking the Defense Production Act, which enables a president to, among other things, order the production of equipment and supplies. Cuomo said doing so would guarantee companies a profit while not leaving the supply chain solely up to the market.

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“When we went to war, we didn't say, ‘Any company out there want to build a battleship? Who wants to build a battleship?’” Cuomo said, attacking Trump’s pro-market stance.

“The president said it's a war,” Cuomo said, raising his voice, “Well, then, act like it!”

Trump, responding later, said: “I’m not blaming him or anything else, but he shouldn’t be talking about us … He’s supposed to be buying his own ventilators.”

Trump has resisted calls from governors to use the Defense Production Act to mass produce more ventilators and medical protective equipment. He said he was working “well” with the nation’s governors, before adding: “It’s a two-way street. They have to treat us well.”

"They can't say, ‘Oh gee, we should get this, we should get that,’” Trump said.

Pence, appearing before Trump, said 2,000 ventilators from the national stockpile were shipped to New York "earlier" Tuesday, and on Wednesday "there will be another 2,000 ventilators shipped.”

Asked about Cuomo’s urgent call for more ventilators, Pence insisted: “We’re going to make those resources available."

"I can promise you in our conversations with Governor Cuomo, in our conversation the president and I had with Mayor (Bill) de Blasio just a day before yesterday, we want to assure them that we’re going to make those resources available,” Pence said, before going on to urge governors in general to identify respirators from private outpatient clinics.

It was an altogether different tone than just a few days ago. Cuomo had said he and Trump were fighting the same war and were “in the same trench.” He had praised the president for heeding his call to use the Army Corps of Engineers to facilitate the rapid buildup of temporary hospitals.

All of that resulted in Cuomo appearing on Fox News with Sean Hannity, a Trump favorite who praised the New York governor for working collegially with the president.

But the lack of an immediate federal response shifted the dynamics.

Cuomo’s said his urgency was fueled by statistics showing the rate of infections is occurring faster than expected — doubling in three days. It could peak in two to three weeks — potentially overwhelming the health care system.

With wire reports

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