President Trump announced from the White House Briefing Room Wednesday that he will invoke the Defense Production Act, which will speed up and expand the supply of resources from the country's industrial base, particularly to increase the production of medical supplies and equipment. It's a move that has been under discussion in recent days and weeks, as the country lacks a sufficient number of ventilators, masks, and other critical items needed to meet the coming demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We will be invoking the Defense Production Act," the president announced during Wednesday's Coronavirus Task Force briefing, adding later that it would be used only if it needed to be.
As the president and his team spoke on stage, trading was halted as the S&P dropped 7%, an occurrence that has become too common in the last week. The stock market has been in free fall in recent days, as more businesses and schools shut down across the nation.
Top Democrats are urging the president to invoke and exercise the law immediately, particularly to address the lack of ventilators. Vice President Mike Pence said the U.S. has a stockpile of roughly 10,000 ventilators, and the U.S. military will be adding more. Mr. Trump dismissed concerns that he didn't invoke the Defense Protection Act sooner, saying it wasn't clear earlier how many they would need, even as hospitals have been warning they don't have enough. Mr. Trump said hospitals should already have ventilators, and the administration will be ordering more.
Meanwhile, the president has approved the USNS Comfort to assist the state of New York, serving as a floating hospital. The administration is loosening regulations on health workers' licenses, allowing doctors and nurses to work across state lines.
Mr. Trump also announced health officials are working on a "self-swab" coronavirus test, which he suggested would be more comfortable and more "popular" than the current test, as the administration scrambles to provide more tests. The main complaint from hospitals and doctors is that they lack enough tests, not that the tests are uncomfortable.
"That's not very, uh, nice to do. I can tell you, because I did it," said Mr. Trump, who tested negative for coronavirus last week.
Mr. Trump told reporters Wednesday the White House will hold another press conference later Wednesday or early Thursday to address developments at the Food and Drug Administration. On Tuesday the White House and Congress moved quickly to craft the parameters of ato prop up the economy in response to the crisis, with Senate Republicans taking the lead on a package that could cost upwards of $1 trillion.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide now tops 200,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The president has asked all Americans to limit contact with others for 15 days, and he's admitted that unprecedented measures being taken across the country could sink the U.S. into a recession.