The claim: There were no shortages when Donald Trump was president
A meme being shared on Facebook claims there were no shortages when Donald Trump was president.
“We didn’t have no gas shortage or food shortage under Trump,” reads a July 19 post. “In fact, there was no shortage of any kind.”
The post was shared more than 800 times in less than two weeks.
In January, Trump made a similar comment during an interview when he claimed there weren’t supply chain problems while he was in office.
But these claims are false. There were shortages during Trump’s presidency, especially early in the pandemic, when a lack of medical supplies forced health care workers to ration, clean and reuse disposable equipment, including masks.
USA TODAY reached out to the user who shared the post for comment.
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Masks, other medical supplies were scarce early in pandemic
The shortage of personal protective equipment, including masks, in the early days of the pandemic led businesses to donate supplies to local hospitals and prompted calls for donations on social media.
“Health care workers and nursing home residents, among others, were particularly hard hit by the acute lack of personal protective equipment, which resulted in preventable COVID-19 infections and deaths,” said Tinglong Dai, a professor at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.
Trump left the responsibility of acquiring medical supplies to individual states, telling reporters at the time that the federal government was “not a shipping clerk,” according to Politico.
There were other shortages, too. The sight of empty store shelves became common as toilet paper, hand sanitizer and other in-demand items were bought up by people across the country suddenly facing stay-at-home orders.
“Millions of Americans had their lives turned upside down by these prolonged shortages that lasted for months,” Dai said.
The COVID-19 vaccine faced distribution issues as well. As a result of a lack of coordination between federal and state officials, in early January 2021, “many people were left in desperate need of COVID-19 vaccinations,” Dai said.
Policymakers have limited options
The problems still affecting global supply chains are largely the result of a pandemic-related loss of capacity for production and transportation, said David Closs, a retired professor of supply chain management at Michigan State University.
The issue, though, isn’t in the hands of any one person. Officials often have limited options when trying to resolve issues with supply chains, Closs said, adding that the pandemic “changed the whole supply chain environment that we were working under.”
Still, there are some tools available to policymakers. Industrial regulations can increase or decrease the resilience of supply chains, Dai said, but it often takes years – likely more than one president’s term – for the effect to be noticeable.
The shortage of personal protective equipment, for example, can be at least partially attributed to the Obama and Trump administrations’ failures to replenish federal stockpiles, Dai said.
Newswise previously debunked a similar claim.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that there were no shortages when Trump was president. There were shortages of medical supplies early in the pandemic that forced health care workers to reuse disposable equipment, including masks. There were also widespread shortages of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and other items.
Our fact-check sources:
- David Closs, July 29, Phone interview with USA TODAY
- Tinglong Dai, July 29, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- USA TODAY, April 3, 2020, Fact check: Did the Obama administration deplete the federal stockpile of N95 masks?
- USA TODAY, March 22, 2020, How FEMA, businesses and Donald Trump are confronting the country’s N95 mask shortage amid coronavirus pandemic
- Associated Press, April 23, 2021, FDA: N95 masks, now plentiful, should no longer be reused
- Associated Press, Feb. 26, 2021, Hospitals still ration medical N95 masks as stockpiles swell
- Associated Press, Sept. 10, 2020, Scarcity of raw material still squeezes N95 mask makers
- Washington Post, April 7, 2020, Flushing out the true cause of the global toilet paper shortage amid coronavirus pandemic
- Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2021, A timeline of the CDC’s advice on face masks
- Business Insider, Jan. 26, Trump falsely suggests there were no supply chain issues when he was president
- Politico, March 19, 2020, ‘We’re not a shipping clerk’: Trump tells governors to step up efforts to get medical supplies
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Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.