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President Trump to invoke Defense Production Act

The Department of Defense is releasing up to 2,000 ventilators and is making available up to 5 million N95 face masks from reserves.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

President Donald Trump today said he would invoke the Defense Production Act, a move that opens up the distribution of needed medical supplies such as masks and ventilators.

Trump has taken criticism for not using his authority earlier when there is a critical shortage of ventilators among providers.

Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said the U.S. stockpile is in excess of 10,000.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he is releasing up to 2,000 operational deployable ventilators. He is also making available up to five million N95 face masks from reserves to the Department of Health and Human Services. The first one million would be available immediately, he said.

To aid in supply efforts, two hospital ships, the Mercy and the Comfort will be launched over the next week. One will be in New York City and the other in San Diego, Esper said.

Using a public\private partnership, the supply of test kits are increasing and Trump said this could include "self swabs."

More labs are coming online for testing.

Trump compared efforts to combat what he called "the Chinese virus" to the U.S. being at war.

"I view it as, in a sense, a wartime president, that's what we're fighting," Trump said.

Parts of the economy that were strong weeks ago have had to close, he said. "One day you have to close it down to defeat this enemy."

Coronavirus cases are now being reported in all 50 states for a total of 7,324 cases nationwide and 115 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins data map.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is activated in every region and is at its highest level.

This first clinical trial of a vaccine began this week in Washington State.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is providing relief to Americans in suspending foreclosures until the end of April. Trump also indicated that Americans would be receiving checks of an estimated $1,000 in relief efforts.

The U.S. border with Canada has been closed to non-essential travel.

HHS is issuing a regulation to allow physicians to practice across state lines, and it is asking people to delay elective procedures.

Telehealth is being expanded for the nation's 62 million seniors to get services from the safety of homes, and without copays, said Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

"We're going to defeat the invisible enemy," Trump said. "I think we're going to do it even faster than we thought."

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com