Amid the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump told governors on a call Monday that states should work on acquiring much-needed medical equipment, such as ventilators or respirators, on their own.
“Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves,” the president told the governors during a conference call, first reported The New York Times, which obtained a recording of the call. (CNN later confirmed the report.)
“We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself,” he said.
Ventilators, in particular, are necessary to treat more severe cases of COVID-19, an infection that affects the respiratory system. Health experts have expressed concern that there may not be enough ventilators in hospitals across the U.S. to meet the need if there is a significant increase in severe cases, as there have been in China and Italy.
“If one state doesn’t get the resources and materials they need, the entire nation continues to be at risk,” New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) told the Times.
A White House spokesperson told HuffPost that Trump’s remarks were not meant as an “either/or” and that the president was saying states should get materials as well.
Trump explained further during a press briefing on Monday.
“If they can get them faster by getting them on their own, in other words, go through a supply chain that they may have, because … during normal times, the governors buy a lot of things not necessarily through federal government,” Trump said.
“It’s always going to be faster if they can get them directly, if they need them, and I’ve given them authorization to order directly,” Trump told reporters.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have grown rapidly over the past month, with roughly 4,000 cases and more than 60 dead nationwide.
On Friday, 57 members of Congress wrote to Trump, urging him to use his powers under the Defense Production Act to mass-produce medical supplies urgently needed to address the pandemic, including face masks, respirators and ventilators.
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