President Donald Trump is officially invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA) to ramp up the federal government’s response to combat the Wuhan coronavirus global pandemic making its way throughout the United States.
“It can do a lot of good things if we need it,” Trump said in a White House press conference Wednesday.
The Cold War-era law allows the president to arrange or even coerce private sector industries to produce goods necessary for national defense. The president is invoking the act as hospitals face steep shortages in medical supplies in the face of an inevitable overwhelming case load approaching from the Wuhan virus.
Trump was initially hesitant to activate the law as pressure mounted to use it in an effort to bolster the nation’s health care infrastructure. “We’ll make that decision pretty quickly if we need it,” Trump said at the White House Tuesday. “We hope we don’t need it. It’s a big step.”
On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence also announced a new directive that would allow doctors and nurses to practice across state lines, and urged health care providers to delay elective procedures to focus resources on the Wuhan virus.
As of Thursday afternoon, there have been more than 200,00 confirmed cases of the Wuhan virus worldwide with the number of infected in the United States rapidly approaching 10,000. Many believe the number of cases in the U.S. to be much higher than recorded due to lack of testing. More than 100 people have died in the United States and there have been more than 8,000 deaths around the globe.
Earlier this week, Trump issued new guidelines urging Americans not to gather in groups larger than 10 people to slow the spread.