President Donald Trump said he’ll give the governors of New York, California, and Washington states “maximum flexibility” to use the National Guard to help combat the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S, which has now infected more than 30,000 people as of Sunday.
“We’ve signed what we have to sign, and it’s been activated,” Trump said at a press conference Sunday night.
The president added that the move would enable the states access to the National Guard without worrying about cost: The feds will pick up the tab. The three states in question have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19, the contagious respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. As of Sunday, New York has more than 15,000 confirmed cases, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. That’s about half of all confirmed U.S. cases.
“This is not martial law,” said FEMA chief Pete Gaynor, who also emphasized the governors would remain in control.
Trump’s also still excited about an untested treatment for the coronavirus. He’s pushed the idea that chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, might cure COVID-19. And now he’s sending it to New York State.
“It’s been a strong, powerful drug for malaria,” Trump said. “We’ve gotten them the drug, I think they’re going to start the process of giving the drug, through mouth, on Tuesday.”
The head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said last week there’s been no clinical testing of the drug as a cure for COVID-19, and that any evidence it could be useful is “anecdotal.”
In addition to mobilizing the National Guard, Trump also said he would dispatch the Army Corps of Engineers to help with the construction of temporary hospitals, which the president has been slow to do. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked for the Corps to be deployed over a week ago.
Cuomo and a chorus of Democrats have been demanding that Trump use the Defense Production Act — a 1950 law passed during the Korean War to allow the federal government to force private industry to produce war supplies — to make companies produce much-needed medical supplies, like masks or ventilators. Trump invoked the act in an executive order last week but hadn’t used it yet.
On Sunday, White House National Security Adviser Pete Navarro said that the threat of the act was enough to encourage companies to produce medical supplies for the fight against COVID-19 on their own.
“What we’re seeing, on a purely voluntary basis, based on the leadership of this administration, we’re seeing the greatest mobilization of the industrial base since World War II,” Navarro said at the presser.
As for whether his own company might benefit from a coronavirus stimulus package — which Senate Democrats voted down on Sunday night but would give the Treasury Department $500 billion to bail out any company it chooses — Trump wouldn’t commit one way or another.
“I built a great company, I agreed to things that people don’t have to, I still don’t have to,” the president said. “Let’s just see what happens, because we have to save some of these great companies.”
Cover: President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Sunday, March 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)