President Donald Trump said Sunday that three U.S. automakers – General Motors, Ford Motor and Tesla — have been “given the go ahead” for fast-paced production of ventilators and other metal products needed to treat Americans infected by the deadly coronavirus.
“Go for it auto execs, let’s see how good you are,” Trump said on Twitter.
The Republican Trump is under attack from some opposition Democrats for not invoking 1950s Korean War-era powers to force American companies to manufacture medical equipment to fight the coronavirus infections, but he so far has resisted a direct order while praising voluntary efforts by U.S. corporate giants.
In another tweet, Trump thanked Frederick Smith, chief executive of the FedEx package delivery service, “for the rapid emergency deliveries you are making all over our Nation. Keep it going!”
Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Peter Gaynor told CNN on Sunday that Trump hasn’t invoked the Defense Production Act to force companies to manufacture masks, ventilators and other crucial medical supplies because they are being made voluntarily.
“It’s happening without using that lever,” Gaynor said.
Trump on Friday said, "Amazing things are happening. We are getting calls from automobile companies and other companies saying they have capacity and they want to make ventilators and other things. We are literally being besieged in a beautiful way by companies that want to do the work and help our country."
But some Democrats said the volunteer corporate effort is not adequate.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, himself a corporate titan as part of the family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain, told CNN that states like his are “competing against each other, we’re competing against other countries” for medical supplies.
“And indeed we’re overpaying, I would say, for [personal protective equipment] because of that competition,” he said.
Pritzker said he’s gotten only a fraction of the masks, gloves and gowns he has requested from the federal government. So Pritzker said he is using Illinois state workers to purchase supplies internationally on the open market.
“I’ve got people on the phones, working the phones across the world, frankly, to get this stuff shipped to Illinois,” Pritzker said.
Another Trump critic, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, urged him to invoke the war powers act, saying his reluctance to do so would “cost lives” in her state, one of the hardest hit in the U.S. by the coronavirus.
“We’re thankful to anyone who’s pitching in on this effort,” she said, “but we are nowhere near the beds and the capacity that we need in this country.”
“We’re hearing it every step of the way from this administration,” she said. “First we were hearing it was a hoax. Then we were hearing that everything was fine. Then we were hearing that the fundamentals of the economy [were] OK until the crash comes. And we cannot wait until people start really dying in large numbers to start production.“
Trump later responded on Twitter, saying that Pritzker and “a very small group of certain other Governors, together with Fake News CNN & Concast (MSDNC), shouldn’t be blaming the Federal Government for their own shortcomings. We are there to back you up should you fail, and always will be!”
There are more than 27,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. and at least 323 deaths, figures that are growing by the day.
But Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. government’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the CBS show “Face the Nation,” that he does not think that the U.S. will become like Italy, which now has surpassed China as the country with the highest death toll.
The reason for his optimism, he said, was because U.S. officials have emphasized the need for Americans to practice safe physical separation from other people to avoid becoming infected.