Enlarge /. President Donald Trump speaks while Vice President Mike Pence watches during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic at the White House on March 26, 2020.
Getty Images | Drew Angerer
President Donald Trump today ordered General Motors to manufacture ventilators to treat COVID-19 patients and accused the company of "wasting time." Trump announced that he "signed a presidential memorandum instructing the Minister of Health and Human Services to use all of the powers available under the Defense Production Act to oblige General Motors to accept, implement, and prioritize federal ventilator contracts."
Hours before Trump took this step, GM said it was partnering with ventilator maker Ventec Life Systems to "deliver the first ventilators next month and to produce more than 10,000 critical care ventilators per month with infrastructure and scalability In addition."
Trump's statement did not specify how many fans GM should build, but he said GM was moving too slowly:
Our negotiations with GM on the ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too pressing to continue giving and taking the contract process to continue its normal course. GM wasted time. Today's measures will help ensure the rapid production of ventilators that save American lives.
Trump just downplayed the need for ventilators yesterday and said Sean Hannity of Fox News: "I don't think you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You sometimes go to large hospitals and you have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they say: & # 39; Can we order 30,000 ventilators? & # 39; "
New York governor Andrew Cuomo called Trump's statement "ignorant".
"So the point is: & # 39; well, they are in stock, you shouldn't need them & # 39; is just ignorant – of course you don't need them today," Cuomo told CNN. "You need it when you reach the apex, which is 30,000. We're not there yet."
The White House declined the $ 1 billion cost
The White House had prepared this week to announce a joint venture between GM and Ventec "that would enable the production of up to 80,000 much-needed ventilators", but the Trump administration had "concerns" about the cost, The New York Times reported. The Times wrote:
The decision to cancel the announcement came, according to government officials, after the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it needed more time to assess whether the estimated cost was prohibitive. That price was more than $ 1 billion. Several hundred million dollars had to be paid in advance to General Motors to convert an auto parts plant in Kokomo, Indiana, where the fans would be manufactured using Ventec's technology.
Trump used his Twitter account today to accuse GM of asking too much money for ventilators, saying the company wanted "top dollars." He also told GM to "start making fans now !!!!!!"
We asked GM how many fans it would make based on Trump's order today, but we didn't get an answer. GM instead gave us a general statement about its partnership with Ventec, saying that the companies "have been working around the clock for weeks to meet this urgent need" and that GM "is committed to providing Ventec's high quality intensive care ventilator, VOCSN, to build, never wavered. "
"We are focusing on implementing our plan," said GM.
Both GM and Ford have already started producing fans. Trump had not previously used the Defense Production Law to make demands on GM, but the Food and Drug Administration issued new guidelines on Sunday that loosen the agency's rigorous monitoring of ventilation technology and make it easier to quickly find ventilators for the coronavirus pandemic to build.
The US surpassed China on Thursday as the country with the largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases. The Trump administration, as we wrote yesterday, has sent conflicting signals about the severity of the pandemic and has taken too long to implement a coherent plan to combat the corona virus.