Trump says 'not easy' to find critical medical gear

Hospitals, cities, and states across the U.S. are begging for more masks, gloves and ventilators as they face a surging number of coronavirus cases, warning that without help, front-line workers will get sick, patients will die and the healthcare delivery system could collapse.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledged that finding all the gear was no simple task.

He tweeted, "the World market for face masks and ventilators is Crazy. We are helping the states to get equipment, but it is not easy."

(SOUNDBITE) (English) CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM, SAYING:

"1 billion gloves, to procure. Five hundred million N95 masks. Some 200 million shields. You get the picture."

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday laid out the sheer scale of personal protective equipment - or PPE - his state needed to confront the epidemic.

The need is already desperately apparent. Nurses outside a hospital in Oakland vented their frustrations at having to care for patients without proper gear.

Katy Roemer is with the California Nurses Association, and likened conditions to going into battle unarmed.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) REGISTERED NURSE KATY ROEMER, SAYING:

"We are willing to fight that war. We're here. Our patients need us, we step up every time. But if you're asked to go into a war, you need to have the weapons to fight that war."

The national need is spurring innovation.

A company in Montana has begun 3D-printing protective masks, and developed a model that others with printers can reproduce.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) SEW MUCH MORE STORE MANAGER WENDY REIVES, SAYING:

"It's a rectangle that's folded in half, and sewn and then the directions tell you how to put these pleats in."

Wendy Reives is the manager of a fabric shop in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where people can learn to sew surgical masks, and drop them off for hospitals.

The Center for Disease Control say such masks are acceptable, as a last resort.

Before it gets to that, the Chester County Hospital outside Philadelphia is trying to stock up on supplies before they run out, soliciting donations from the community.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has appealed for ventilators, masks and other medical equipment as the number of coronavirus cases spiraled and critical items were in short supply.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) NEW YORK CITY MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, SAYING:

"The good news, that 400 ventilators from the federal stockpile are arriving now to help New York City. That's going to make a huge difference. Now, our need for ventilators is in the thousands."

State governors and others have called on Trump to leverage the Defense Production Act, a measure that would allow the U.S. government to speed up manufacturing. The Republican president on Sunday said he hesitated to utilize it because "nationalizing our businesses is not a good concept."

He's also said many companies were voluntarily producing the needed material without needing to be directed.

On Tuesday he tweeted, "The Defense Production Act is in full force, but haven’t had to use it because no one has said NO! Millions of masks coming as back up to States."

One example of companies stepping forward: on Tuesday, Ford said it had joined GE and 3M in the emergency push for equipment.

Footage shows the carmaker producing face shields at a 3D-printing facility.

Ford says it plans to make up to 75,000 shields this week, for testing at Detroit-area hospitals.

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