Calls for President Donald Trump to implement the recently activated Defense Production Act to combat medical equipment shortages have been answered.
A senior White House official confirmed on Sunday that Trump gave Tesla, Ford, and General Motors the “go-ahead” to begin mass-producing ventilators to get ahead of the projected shortage.
The move was made “to ensure that the necessary authorities will be available to prioritize production of items under government contracts and to allocate scarce items where they are needed most,” the official disclosed.
Though Trump invoked the Korean war-era DPA last week to fill gaps in the supply chain, the private sector began mobilizing before the order was set in motion.
Another White House official described the private sector’s mobilization as “overwhelming” and “faster than anyone thought possible.”
Ventilators are a critical piece of medical equipment for patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. COVID-19 attacks the lungs and can cause acute respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia. And since there is no clinically proven treatment yet, ventilators are relied upon to help people breathe and fight the disease. There are about 160,000 ventilators in the United States and another 12,700 in the National Strategic Supply, the NYT reported.
The tweet follows a plea Sunday morning from NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the federal government to nationalize medical supply acquisition instead of leaving it to individual states. Cuomo is one of a growing group of officials to call for Trump to order companies to produce medical supplies under the Defense Production Act, a law that allows the federal government to compel private industry to produce materials needed for national defense.
Without the nationalization, states are competing against each other for supplies, Cuomo said. Prices have spiked as a result, putting more pressure on a health care system.
Ford, General Motors and Tesla are being given the go ahead to make ventilators and other metal products, FAST! @fema Go for it auto execs, lets see how good you are? @RepMarkMeadows @GOPLeader @senatemajldr
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2020
Ford said that it stands ready to help the administration, including the possibility of producing ventilators and other equipment.
“We have had preliminary discussions with the U.S. and U.K. governments and looking into the feasibility,” the Ford spokesperson Rachel McCleery said. “It’s vital that we all pull together to help the country weather this crisis and come out the other side stronger than ever.”
SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted Saturday that he had a discussion with Medtronic about ventilators. Medtronic later confirmed those talks in a tweet. He had previously tweeted that SpaceX and Tesla will work on ventilators, without providing specifics.
In recent weeks, Trump and his team provided several updates on their progress and some of the measures they are working on with Congress.
The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation last Wednesday providing billions of dollars to limit the damage from the coronavirus pandemic through free testing, paid sick leave, and expanded safety-net spending.
Congress and the White House are discussing additional stimulus measures that could cost more than $1 trillion.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced that the administration is working to get checks to Americans in two weeks to help workers cope with the economic effects of the crisis.
Trump has decided to suspend all travel from the European Union as well as the U.K. and Ireland.
The president also declared a national emergency.