WASHINGTON — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio sharply criticized President Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic Sunday, arguing that the federal government has not done enough to ramp up production of life-saving medical supplies like masks and ventilators and asking the president to deploy the military across the country to help with the public-health crisis.
“The president of the United States is from New York City and he will not lift a finger to help his hometown and I don’t get it. I don’t get it. Right now, I have asked repeatedly for the military to be mobilized, for the Defense Production Act to be used to its fullest to get us things like ventilators, so people can live who would die otherwise,” De Blasio said Sunday on a special edition of NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“If the president doesn’t act, people will die who could have lived otherwise — senior citizens, folks who are members of families.”
De Blasio said the president should order all military personnel with medical training to deploy to hot-spots in America and to help the country ferry ventilators to those hot spots.
“Why are they at their bases? Why are they not being allowed to serve? I guarantee you they are ready to serve, but the president has to give the order,” he said.
The comments sparked a back-and-forth with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who said that looking backward is not productive.
“I don’t think just talking about what was done wrong yesterday or last week or last year is really that helpful in the discussion,” Hogan said.
“We are getting some progress. Now, it’s not nearly enough, it’s not fast enough, we’re way behind the curve,” he said, adding that the unified effort is making progress on respirators, masks and tests.
“It’s not a perfect situation, but we are trying to ramp up, order things on the open market, get some things produced here. It’s going to take the federal, state and local governments all stepping up and doing whatever it takes regardless of who is supposed to do what,” he added.
De Blasio countered that “it’s not about blaming people for what happened in the past,” but said he’s trying to sound the alarm on ways he feels the response has been inadequate.
He specifically pointed to the Defense Production Act, a federal law that allows the federal government to push business to ramp-up production of certain products to protect the nation. Trump has said he would invoke the act “in a worst case scenario,” but Democratic leadership has called on him to do so now.
“The American government is not at full bore right now. The Defense Production Act, it’s been activated. We’ve gotten no indication of any factory on 24/7 shifts, we’ve gotten no shipments and the U.S. military is at its bases instead of at the front lines,” he said.
“We cannot be gentle about this point — right this minute, from this minute forward, our federal government needs to be in this fight instead of on the sidelines.”
FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor told "Meet the Press" that FEMA is shipping supplies daily across the country and that states would get reimbursed by the federal government if they bought important supplies on the open market. He went on to call the Defense Production Act an “insurance policy” and a “lever” that hasn’t been flipped yet.
“We haven’t had to use it yet. Will we have to use it? Maybe. But right now, this is what makes America so great — every company pitching in to make sure we can beat this virus,” Gaynor said.
There are at least 26,747 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, according to data analyzed by Johns Hopkins University, as more than 80 million Americans are living under stay-at-home orders.
The New York State Department of Health reports 10,356 positive coronavirus cases in the state as of Saturday afternoon and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency reports 190 confirmed coronavirus cases.
Around the world, Hopkins reports almost 312,000 coronavirus cases globally, while more than 13,000 people have died from the virus and almost 94,000 have recovered.