When pressed by a reporter Thursday on the dire shortage of medical supplies and testing to deal with the coronavirus, President Donald Trump deflected responsibility for the crisis and instead put the burden on governors.
Speaking at what’s become a daily White House press briefing on the pandemic, Trump insisted that states should take the lead in supplying the badly needed medical equipment and protective items, despite the federal government’s vastly greater resources and capabilities.
“Governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work,” he said. “The federal government’s not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping. You know, we’re not a shipping clerk. We’ll help out wherever we can.”
The president’s remarks about governors being the ones obliged to deal with mask and ventilators shortages were reminiscent of his Friday comment that “I don’t take responsibility at all” for complaints by state officials about the scarcity of testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
The federal government has a number of tools to spur the production of ventilators. Overall, the Trump administration’s response to the outbreak has fallen short. The president denied and downplayed the grave public health risk for weeks and has been slow to mobilize the full power of the federal government despite a rapidly growing number of infections and deaths.
Asked about reports of chaos surrounding the coronavirus testing efforts, Trump discounted any such problems. “I’m hearing very good things on the ground,” he said, without providing any specifics.
The president’s Thursday comments came as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 10,491 cases of coronavirus in the U.S., an increase of 3,404 from its previous count, and that the death toll had risen by 53 to 150.
Trump’s hands-off message appeared a reversal of his announcement on Wednesday that he had signed the Defense Production Act (DPA) as part of an effort to ramp up U.S. production of emergency medical supplies. On Thursday, he said he would only utilize the DPA if it should be absolutely needed.
Vice President Mike Pence, who visited with surgical-mask maker 3M Co. this week, denied a mask shortage exists for medical workers in his comments at the briefing.
“They’re in the marketplace now. We’re going to make it clear to governors … that those resources are now there,” he said.
The CDC earlier this week recommended that health care professionals use “homemade masks” like bandanas if face marks are not available.