Coronavirus: AOC urges Trump to stop dragging feet amid failure to implement emergency measures

New York congresswoman tells CNN: ‘We need to start production right now to get ready for the surge that is coming in two to three weeks’

Alex Woodward
New York
Sunday 22 March 2020 16:55
Coronavirus: AOC says Trump waiting to use emergency order 'going to cost lives'

Donald Trump has not ordered any companies to manufacture critically needed medical supplies, despite his announcement that a war-time measure to accelerate their production in the face of the coronavirus pandemic was in “high gear” as hospitals prepare for shortages.

FEMA administrator Pete Gaynor said that the president has not ordered any company to speed the production of ventilators, facemasks and other medical equipment but is instead merely relying on the invocation of the Defence Production Act as “leverage” while companies offer to “donate” their services.

The administration “haven’t had to use it” because companies are voluntarily offering supplies “without using that lever”, he told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday,

He said: “If it comes to the point where we have to pull the lever, we will.”

New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said while her district is thankful for those donations, “we are nowhere near the beds and the capacity that we need” to support an increase in stretched-thin hospital systems.

She said: “We cannot wait until people start really dying in large numbers to start production especially [for] more complicated equipment like ventilators and hospital beds. We need to start production right now to get ready for the surge that is coming in two to three weeks.”

New York City’s death toll has climbed to at least 60 and the number of confirmed patients reached more than 8,000 over the weekend.

On Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo also echoed calls to press Mr Trump to “immediately” implement the Defence Production Act and nationalise the production of medical supplies, which would relieve New York and other states from competing with other hospital systems for prohibitively expensive equipment.

Coronavirus: FEMA says Trump has not ordered companies to manufacture medical supplies

The congressman slammed the administration’s overly optimistic response while it appears there is “no real stream in sight from the federal government where these materials are coming from” as health workers warn of diminishing supplies or personal protective equipment.

Officials across the US have demanded the White House rely on the mandate, which the president invoked through executive order earlier this week but has appeared to renege on its emergency powers.

On Friday, he said that rather than mandate companies to increase production of those supplies, the US is “literally being besieged in a beautiful way by companies that want to do the work and help our country”.

The president said there were “millions of masks coming” and will be distributed “directly” to states but did not offer specifics or a timeline for those supplies while overwhelmed health systems across the country are bracing for a surge in patients and a limited pool of resources to care for them.

After announcing the order, the president said he did so only for a “worst-case scenario in the future” as the number of patients across the US continued to climb by the thousands.

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