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The U.S. Defense Production Act will help in the manufacturing of ventilators. Above, new ventilators are prepared at the Columbus Covid2 Hospital in Rome on Monday. Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images
COVID-19

Trump invokes Defense Production Act in response to COVID-19

Janet Nguyen Mar 18, 2020
The U.S. Defense Production Act will help in the manufacturing of ventilators. Above, new ventilators are prepared at the Columbus Covid2 Hospital in Rome on Monday. Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

President Donald Trump declared on Wednesday that he will invoke the Defense Production Act, which grants him the authority to force companies to produce medical supplies needed to handle the coronavirus.

The Department of Defense also said it will give 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 ventilators to the Department of Health and Human Services. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said that “the first 1 million masks will be made available immediately.”

In addition to signing the DPA, Trump plans to deploy two Navy hospital ships to assist cities affected by the outbreak, with the U.S. Naval Ship Comfort — which has 1,000 hospital beds — headed to New York.

There have been concerns over how well equipped hospitals are to handle the pandemic. In a statement to NBC News, the American Hospital Association said there are currently a limited supplies of ventilators and hospital beds.

During the conference, Trump called himself a “wartime president.” The Defense Production Act was first passed in response to the Korean War in 1950, and since then, Congress has gradually expanded the scope of the term “national defense.”

Presidents not only have the authority to shape the U.S. military’s capabilities, but they now also have the power to “enhance and support domestic preparedness, response, and recovery from natural hazards, terrorist attacks, and other national emergencies.”

On Friday, Trump declared the COVID-19 crisis a national emergency.

Correction (March 18, 2020): A previous headline misstated Trump’s plans regarding the Defense Protection Act. Trump invoked the DPA.

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