While reporters slept: On Monday, April 6, commander-in-chief Donald J. Trump was busy explaining his greatness.
Slumbering journalists lounged before him. Soon it came time for the commander to tell them one of their favorite tales.
We refer to the monologue about all the equipment Donald J. Trump—apocryphal people call him "Sir"—has amazingly sent to the states. Once again, the stupid old gong-show of very large numbers was spread all through the land.
"Think of that," the president said. Also, "Get the number:"
TRUMP (4/6/20): FEMA and HHS have directly distributed 11.7 million N95 respirators. Think of that! Get the number—11.7 million N95 respirators. 11.7 million."Think of it," the logorrheic commander exclaimed. "Get that number!"
26.5 million surgical masks, 5.3 million face shields, 4.4 million surgical gowns, and 22.6 million gloves. 22.6 million gloves.
As of April 6, the commander said that FEMA and HHS had directly distributed 11.7 million N95 respirators! For the record, the commander seemed to be referring to items which are commonly referred to as "N95 masks."
The commander seems to use the terms interchangeably, as will become clear in the statements presented below.
At any rate, as he's done every day for the past many weeks, the commander in chief had rattled off an array of very large numbers. He has staged this particular gong-show day after day after day after day as American journalists sat before him, generally at best half awake.
The very next day, the commander was at it again. This time, he cited a very large number of "face masks." He didn't bother saying which kinds of face masks he had in mind:
TRUMP (4/7/20): Beginning in May, we’ll be receiving almost 300 million new face masks. We’re going to have masks of about 300 million. They’ll be starting to be delivered in May and during the month of June. So we’re ordering a big stockpile, and we’re thinking about doing an extra 200 million should we need them, or for the—or for the stockpile. So we’ll be in a position to have something incredible. It’ll be a total of 500 million masks.It would be a total of 500 million masks! It was something incredible, the embarrassed commander acknowledged.
And today, 750,000 new protective gowns landed in Dallas, Texas, as a result of a partnership led by the federal government, DuPont, and FedEx. And that’s been a great partnership. That’s worked very well. So we have 600 and—and we have 750,000 new protective gowns. And these are at a high level—very high quality.
In the interest of brevity, let's jump ahead to the very large numbers the commander has cited this week. Here he was on Monday and Tuesday as journalists stared into space:
TRUMP (4/13/20): To date, we’ve facilitated the supply of more than 38 million N95 masks nationwide. This week, we’ll be sending 2 million N95 masks to the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The vice president will go into more detail. He’s got great detail on that, and I think it’s a pretty amazing story. We have a lot of masks already in stock, and we have more coming.Vice President Pence would have great detail. But as you could tell from those very large numbers, the commander had delivered "vast amounts of supplies" to the various states. The performance had been amazing, incredible. The airplanes had been very large.
TRUMP (4/14/20): My administration is also distributing vast amounts of medical supplies to states across the country through Project Air Bridge, which has been an amazing success. We have completed 44 flights—and these are flights of very, very large airplanes, massive cargo planes—44 flights of critical supplies as of today, and an additional 56 flights scheduled in the near future. We have some very brilliant people working on this. It’s logistically incredible what they’ve done. And we’ve also been working on this with the military. And these people have been—the genius of all of them together, it has been incredible to watch.
In total, through all channels, the federal government has developed and delivered 39.4 million N95 masks, 431 million gloves, 57 million surgical masks, and 10.2 million gowns. We ordered 500 million masks, and they’ll be coming shortly. And we’ve distributed 100 million masks.
Here at this site, we've sat through each of the daily briefings over the past many weeks. Excruciating as these sessions have been, they've provided an amazing array of anthropology lessons—lessons concerning the mental abilities and tendencies of our floundering species.
Day after day, again and again, these briefings have featured a recurring parade of very large numbers. The commander has said that these numbers are incredible. "We're in very good shape," he has said.
This Tuesday, as this gong-show continued, the White House published an official account of total supplies rendered to date. According to the title of the fact sheet, "President Donald J. Trump Has Led A Historic Mobilization."
The fact sheet included quite a few very large numbers! Some of those numbers were these:
GETTING SUPPLIES TO THE FRONTLINES: President Trump is moving heaven and earth to make sure our healthcare workers on the frontlines have the supplies they need.Again, that "38.2 million N95 respirators" seems to mean 38.2 million N95 masks. Indeed, that's the number the commander had cited the previous day, in the April 13 statement posted above. ("To date, we’ve facilitated the supply of more than 38 million N95 masks nationwide.")
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) deliveries coordinated or currently being shipped by FEMA and HHS:
38.2 million N95 respirators
32.6 million surgical masks
5.5 million face shields
4.7 million surgical gowns
30.3 million gloves
Day after day, week after week, the commander has cited these very large numbers as upper-end journalists, seated before him, drift in and out of consciousness. Routinely, he has said how "incredible" the numbers were—the very large numbers he's dangled before them without occasioning a murmur or a stirring or even or peep of complaint.
This has been the gong-show of very large numbers—the very first matter we cited when we started discussing these daily non-briefing briefings. Because alas:
While the commander kept saying how many masks he's provided, he never remembered to say how many such masks we would likely need. He never said how many we'd need, and none of the journalists asked!
None of the journalists ever requested that second number! They listened as the commander in chief told them how many items had been provided—but they never asked him to say how many such items we'd need.
The commander never said! But as it turns out, one such number had been cited, back nearer the start of this mess.
How many N95 masks is the nation likely to need? All the way back on Tuesday, March 3, a major official had said.
That major official was Robert Kadlec, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS. On March 3, Kadlec testified before a Senate committee. In a fascinatingly bungled report, CNBC reported what Kadlec had said:
LOVELACE (3/3/20): Health and Human Services official Dr. Robert Kadlec estimates the country would need roughly 3.5 billion of medical-grade N95 masks, which filter out about 95% of all liquid or airborne particles.We'll need roughly 3.5 billion N95 masks, the Azar assistant had said! And that's billion, spelled with a B.
“We have about 35 million,” Kadlec, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, said before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on Tuesday.
As he testified, Kadlec mistakenly said that the 35 million masks we already had was ten percent of what we would likely need. In his report for CNBC, Berkeley Lovelace noted that 35 million is actually only one percent of 3.5 billion.
(In an addendum, CNBC reported that HHS had agreed that, while Kadlec's basic numbers were right, he had bungled his percentage; he should have said one percent.. But good God! In a typical manifestation, the headline on the CNBC report still lists the wrong percentage. "Ten percent," the headline still says! So it tends to go all through our upper-end press corps.)
Let's return to the present. Just this week, the nation's leading super-spreader kept performing a daily gong-show.
Moving heaven and earth, the commander had arranged for "more than 38 million N95 masks" to be provided to the states. In his televised prime time performances, the commander kept telling the country that this was amazing, incredible. He forgot to say that our overall need might be something on the order of 3.5 billion such masks!
The commander forgot to mention that second number. The journalists forgot to ask.
People posing as upper-end journalists have sat before this disordered man day after day after day after day as he has performed this endless, repeated gong-show.
No one has asked for the second numbers. Nor have newspapers chased this rolling gong-show down in dedicated pages about the president's endless misleading / false / bogus monologues. The ones which get aired in prime time.
Donald Trump seems to be badly disordered. That said, anthropology lessons abound in the way our upper-end journalists have slumbered and snored as he has rattled on and on in this, the first or fourth year of the plague.
Has anything been reported clearly and well? If reporters can't even handle this gong-show, what tasks can such humans perform?
Still coming: The actions the upper-end press hasn't taken. The actions they still ought to take.
For extra credit only: If you search on "Kadlec AND 3.5 billion," you'll find occasional stray reports on what the Azar aide told the Senate.
But as with CNBC, so too almost everywhere else. The reports we've found have been almost as error-riddled and unclear as the commander's daily monologues. The variegated lack of clarity is routine, impressive, depressing.
Go ahead—conduct that search! See what you're able to find.