WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that, in an effort to fight the coronavirus pandemic, he will invoke the Defense Production Act, which will help increase the production of necessary medical supplies like ventilators.
“It can do a lot of good things if we need it,” he said of the DPA. “No matter what you have, it’s not enough. If we need to use it, we’ll be using it at full speed ahead.”
Ahead of Wednesday’s White House briefing, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Trump to invoke the act, as did Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
The White House also announced Wednesday that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is suspending all evictions and foreclosures until the end of April, and that Health and Human Services will issue a regulation that will allow doctors to practice across state lines. Vice President Mike Pence asked Americans to postpone any elective surgeries, and formally announced that the US and Canada have mutually agreed to close the border to any nonessential travelers.
Trump also called the coronavirus “the China virus” at the press conference and argued it wasn’t a racist term. When a reporter noted that dozens of Chinese Americans have faced racist attacks because of the virus in recent weeks, the president doubled down.
“It's not racist at all, no. Not at all,” Trump said. “It comes from China.”
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One senator, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, has vowed to “punish” China for the virus. “We will emerge stronger from this challenge, we will hold accountable those who inflicted it on the world,” he said last week.
Asked Wednesday if he agreed with Cotton, Trump said, “I don’t know if you’d say China is to blame. Certainly we didn’t get an early run on it. It would’ve been helpful if we knew about it earlier.”
As the press conference came to an end, one reporter asked about a tweet from CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang, who wrote on Tuesday, “This morning a White House official referred to #Coronavirus as the ‘Kung-Flu’ to my face. Makes me wonder what they’re calling it behind my back.”
Trump sidestepped the question about whether he thought the remark was appropriate, and doubled down on his earlier comments, saying again, “It comes from China.”
Asked if he thought well-connected people like celebrities and athletes were getting priority access to testing, Trump said he didn't think that was the case. But, he added, "Perhaps that’s been the story of life. That does happen on occasion. I’ve noticed where some people have been tested fairly quickly."
Trump also encouraged people to heed the Centers for Disease Control guidelines and not gather in large groups.
“I do want people to be calm,” Trump said. “We’re going to win this. It’s just a question of time.”