DETROIT — President Donald Trump issued an order Friday that seeks to force General Motors to produce ventilators for coronavirus patients under the Defense Production Act.
Trump said negotiations with General Motors had 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.”
Trump said “GM was wasting time” and said his actions will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.
Experts say the U.S. is hundreds of thousands of breathing machines short of what it likely will need to treat a rapidly rising number of COVID-19 patients. New York, Michigan, Louisiana and the state of Washington have been singled out as virus hot spots in the U.S.
The series of tweets came just hours after Trump, during a Fox News interview Thursday night, said he had “a feeling” that the number of ventilators being requested to handle the virus was too high.
Trump threatened to invoke the Defense Production Act and wrote that GM should reopen its now-closed factory in Lordstown, Ohio, or some other facility to build ventilators. GM sold the Lordstown plant to a company that wants to make electric commercial vehicles.
GM issued a statement announcing its agreement to build ventilators with Ventec Life Systems, a small Seattle-area company. It also will help Ventec ramp up production. The automaker addressed Trump’s price-gouging claim by saying it is offering resources to Ventec “at cost.”
GM’s statement said the company is scheduled to start shipping ventilators as soon as next month from an automotive electronics factory in Kokomo, Indiana.
“This effort is in addition to Ventec taking aggressive steps to ramp up production at their manufacturing facility,” the statement said.
The statement said Ventec and GM are working around the clock, and that depending on the government’s needs, the two companies are ready to manufacture more than 10,000 ventilators per month with the ability to increase that rate.
Meanwhile, Ford is working with GE Health Care to increase ventilator production. The automaker plans to manufacture a simplified ventilator design starting next month, building at a higher rate in May.
“Ford is pulling out all the stops to quickly and safely provide vitally needed equipment for patients, first responders and health care workers,” the company said.
In the Fox interview, Trump questioned whether the number of ventilators requested by hospitals was exaggerated: “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.
“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” he continued. “You know, you’re going to major hospitals sometimes, they’ll have two ventilators. And now, all of a sudden, they’re saying, ‘can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”
His remarks contradicted medical experts and apparently were aimed at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been pleading for 30,000 more ventilators to handle an expected surge in critical virus patients during the next three weeks.
“When the president says the state of New York doesn’t need 30,000 ventilators, with all due respect to him, he’s not looking at the facts of this astronomical growth of this crisis,” said New York City’s mayor Bill de Blasio on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”