WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump is directing the federal government to cover the costs of coronavirus relief efforts carried out by National Guard troops that are activated under the control of state governors.
During a White House news conference Sunday evening, Trump specifically mentioned California, New York and Washington state, those hardest-hit so far, and said National Guard troops would help set up medical stations and distribute hundreds of tons of masks, gowns, respirators and other supplies.
Trump has already approved major disaster declarations for all three states.
A number of governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo, have been appealing to the White House to nationalize efforts to get medical supplies, complaining that state leaders have been competing against one another to get their hands on what’s available.
"I think the federal government should order factories to manufacture masks, gowns, ventilators, the essential medical equipment that is going to make the difference between life and death," Cuomo said at a news conference Sunday in Albany. "It's not hard to make a mask or PPE (personal protective equipment) equipment, or a gown, but you need companies to do it."
Navy hospital ships deployed
Trump said the U.S. Navy medical ship Mercy, will be deployed off Los Angeles and another ship, the Comfort, will be sent up the East Coast within weeks, likely to be docked in New York Harbor.
The head of the White House coronavirus task force, Vice President Mike Pence, said all commercial laboratories in the United States must make in-patient coronavirus testing their priority.
Pence said 254,000 Americans have been tested so far, and that a new test with results in about 45 minutes will be ready by the end of next week.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams says 9 out of 10 people who think they have coronavirus symptoms test negative.
When a reporter asked if illegal migrants can be tested at hospitals or clinics without the fear of being detained, Trump said: “Yes. If that’s not the policy, I will make it the policy.”
Closing stores and restaurants, theaters and other amusements, grounding travel and ordering people to stay home has battered the U.S. economy.
Record losses on Wall Street, predictions of soaring unemployment numbers and a forecast of a recession are tangible signs that the coronavirus is turning life upside down for 7 billion people around the globe.
But Trump said the U.S. economy will “skyrocket” when the country wins what he calls the war against “the hidden enemy.”
Trump did not use the word coronavirus during his news conference, but twice called it the “China virus,” ignoring those who say such words veer into a racism.
Trump has denied any racist intent. But he again Sunday complained that he is still upset with China for apparently rejecting U.S. offers of help when the outbreak grew earlier this year.
The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have repeatedly asked people to call the disease by its proper scientific name: COVID-19.
Facing criticism that he has failed to show genuine compassion during the outbreak, Trump said he wanted those who feel alone and isolated to know that “no one is alone as long as we are a united people.” He promised to always fight for Americans.
As of late Sunday, there were about 34,000 coronavirus cases in the U.S. and 450 deaths.