Coronavirus: Trump admin writes new definition of national stockpile after Jared Kushner says it's not for states

'It's going to get worse,' chief White House economic adviser Lawrence Kudlow warns of Covid-19 outbreak in US

John T. Bennett
Friday 03 April 2020 18:48 BST
Jared Kushner suggests national stockpile of medical equipment is not for states

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The Trump administration has altered its official description of a federal government-run medical supply stockpile a day after Donald Trump's son-in-law referred to it as "our stockpile" as another White House adviser warns the coronavirus outbreak will get "much worse."

Jared Kushner, during the president's daily coronavirus briefing on Thursday evening, raised liberal ire when he responded to a reporter's question by saying the federal government's taxpayer-financed Strategic National Stockpile is "our stockpile," bizarrely claiming it is not to be sued by the states.

Only that people live in states. And people get sick and die from coronavirus. That means states would need to request items like ventilators from the federal stockpile to help meet what the White House for which Mr Kusher works as a policy adviser to Mr Trump says will be a deadly April during which hundreds of thousands could die from Covid-19.

"The notion of the federal stockpile was it's supposed to be our stockpile," Mr Kushner said during the briefing. "It's not supposed to be states' stockpile that they then use."

Hours later, on Friday, the US Department of Health and Human Services, rather than clarify Mr Kushner statement, opted to amend its definition of the stockpile.

This is the before definition: "Strategic National Stockpile is the nation's largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out.

"When state, local, tribal and territorial responders request federal assistance to support their response efforts, the stockpile ensures that the right medicines and supplies get to those who need them most during an emergency. Organised for scalable response to a variety of public health threats, this repository contains enough supplies to respond to multiple large-scale emergencies simultaneously."

This is the after definition: "The Strategic National Stockpile's role is to supplement state and local supplies during public health emergencies. Many states have products stockpiled, as well. The supplies, medicines, and devices for life-saving care contained in the stockpile can be used as a short-term stopgap buffer when the immediate supply of adequate amounts of these materials may not be immediately available."

Spokespersons for the president and Vice President Mike Pence, who heads Mr Trump's coronavirus task force and to whom Mr Kushner answers on virus matters, had not responded to a request for comment.

The agency altered the website the same day another top Trump adviser, Lawrence Kudlow, told reporters the virus outbreak will get worse, telling them to except many more Americans will lose their jobs and seek unemployment insurance after 6.6m more Americans joined the ranks of the unemployed – last week alone.

Experts had hoped the US could avoid a coronavirus-spawned recession, but now they fear an economic slowdown far greater than the 2008-2009 Great Recession.

"Those numbers, and those hardships, are going to get worse before they get better, but that's an acknowledgement," Mr Kudlow told reporters at the White House. "That's why we have to try to do what I do. Again, this is temporary."

Still, like the president this week with his more-serious tone, Mr Kudlow delivered a dire assessment of what's ahead in April.

"It's going to get worse in the weeks ahead," he said. "That's why we've created the largest rescue package in history."

He was referring to a $2.2trn recovery package signed into law by Mr Trump as he and senior Democratic leaders already are talking about a fourth bill.

But Mr Kudlow wants to pump the brakes on what might need to be included in that "phase four" package saying "Let's wait and see. The key, right now, is executing this [third] package."

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