With a new wave of coronavirus patients expected to swamp U.S. hospitals, President Trump on Friday invoked the Defense Production Act, requiring automaker General Motors to produce ventilators to fight the pandemic.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING: "We had a deal for 40,000 ventilators and all of a sudden the 40,000 came down to 6,000, and then they talked about a higher price than we were discussing so I didn't like it." Despite the mounting crisis, Trump had resisted invoking the Act - an emergency law that grants him broad authority to procure supplies.
Instead, he has used Twitter to pressure manufacturers act on their own - tweeting just Friday morning that General Motors must begin producing ventilators "NOW." He also told Ford to "GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!" Democratic Representative Adam Schiff was among those who blasted the president for deflecting his responsibility by not invoking the act.
Trump’s move to invoke the act comes amid pleas from doctors and nurses for more medical supplies.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN AT BROOKDALE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL MEDICAL CENTER, DR. ARABIA MOLLETTE, SAYING: “It’s been like a war zone.
A medical war zone.” New York emergency room physician Dr. Arabia Mollette is among those reusing her single-use mask.
The shortage of protective gear at her hospital putting serious strain on the system.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN AT BROOKDALE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL MEDICAL CENTER, DR. ARABIA MOLLETTE, SAYING: “Oftentimes, before I start my shift, I have to pray and meditate for at least 5 minutes to get my mind in the setting of going into this war that we're battling.
We are scared.
We're trying to fight for everyone else's life, but we're also fighting for our lives as well because we're also at the highest risk of exposure.
And many shifts that I've left from, after finishing my shift, I've cried." Some in New York – the U.S. epicenter of the virus – have even resorted to the black market for supplies.
Like Dr. Alexander Salerno of New Jersey, who described going through a "broker," paying $17,000 for equipment that should have cost about $2,500 - and picking them up at an abandoned warehouse.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) SALERNO MEDICAL ASSOCIATES DOCTOR, DR. ALEXANDER SALERNO, SAYING: "You don't get any names.
You get just, you know, phone numbers to text.
And so you agree to a term.
You wire the money to a bank account.
They give you a time and an address to come to.” The U.S. is now the world leader in confirmed cases, and sixth in deaths.
New York is building eight temporary hospitals to accommodate a patient surge that is expected in three weeks.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke from one of the them on Friday – Manhattan’s Jacob Javits convention center, with its makeshift beds in the background – and took an apparent swipe at Trump's claim that New York was exaggerating by saying it needs 30,000 ventilators from the federal government.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) NEW YORK GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO, SAYING: "Everybody's entitled to their own opinion, but I don't operate here on opinion.
I operate on facts.” Cuomo ended his briefing by thanking the military personnel on hand who are contributing to the state’s efforts.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) NEW YORK GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO, SAYING: “So I say my friends, that we go out there and kick coronavirus ass.
God bless each and every one of you.