Trump orders GM to begin immediate manufacture of ventilators as COVID-19 spread hospitalizes thousands of Americans
03/29/2020 / By JD Heyes / Comments
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Trump orders GM to begin immediate manufacture of ventilators as COVID-19 spread hospitalizes thousands of Americans

When President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act earlier this month, he said he wasn’t certain he’d ever have to use it.

The Korean War-era law gives him the authority to order U.S. manufacturers to produce certain goods needed to battle the coronavirus outbreak.

The National Sentinel reported March 22: 

But the president thus far has not had to use that authority because American companies are doing a very American thing: They’re stepping up to donate or deliver on those items without being made to do so, according to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Apparently, however, as coronavirus crushes hospital systems in the country’s hardest-hit regions like New York City and threatens to do the same in California, Washington and New Orleans, it became apparent that one of the most vital pieces of equipment — ventilators — are getting to be in extremely short supply.

As such, on Friday General Motors became the first American company ordered to produce a product under the authority of the DPA since the president first invoked it, CNBC reported, adding: 

The order comes hours after GM announced plans to build critical-care ventilators with Ventec Life Systems at one of the automaker’s component plants in Indiana. 

The president’s order doesn’t change GM’s previously announced plans or schedule to begin making ventilators, corporate spokesman Jim Cain said. Last week, the automaker said it expected to begin shipping those vents as early as April.

In a statement released by the White House, President Trump said his action “will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.”

“Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course,” he said. (Related: China now trying to rewrite world history by claiming the Wuhan coronavirus never originated in China.)

There’s no way to prove Gov. Cuomo wrong at this point

The company isn’t pushing back at all, which is a good thing since, by law, it really doesn’t have much choice.

In a statement emailed to CNBC, the automaker didn’t directly address the president’s invocation of the DPA. Rather, company officials repeated earlier claims that employees with Ventec, GM and their supply chain “have been working around the clock for over a week to meet this urgent need.”

“Our commitment to build Ventec’s high-quality critical care ventilator, VOCSN, has never wavered,” GM said. “The partnership between Ventec and GM combines global expertise in manufacturing quality and a joint commitment to safety to give medical professionals and patients access to life-saving technology as rapidly as possible. The entire GM team is proud to support this initiative.”

The president’s announcement, strangely, came just a day after he expressed doubt regarding a claim by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo that his state will require at least 30,000 vents in order to treat a tsunami of critical patients sickened by COVID-19.

“I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity. 

“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you go into major hospitals sometimes they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”

Honestly, though, there’s no way to prove Gov. Cuomo wrong at this point. And again, the president did turn around and order GM to get moving on its promised deliveries of ventilators. 

It probably isn’t an accident that GM became the first company ordered by the president to make a coronavirus-related product. Last year, Trump criticized GM’s decision to shutter an auto plant in Lordstown, Ohio, which he took as a personal insult because he had promised workers there that their manufacturing jobs would be returning.

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