U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he is invoking the Defense Production Act for use against the coronavirus pandemic, putting in place a law that will allow the U.S. government to accelerate production of needed equipment.
Trump also said a hospital ship will be sent to hard-hit New York to help people affected by the contagion, and that a second hospital ship will be deployed to the West Coast.
Trump, appearing in the White House briefing room for what has now become a daily news conference with his coronavirus task force, said he would sign the Defense Production Act later on Wednesday.
The law, which dates back to the 1950s Korean War, grants the president broad authority to “expedite and expand the supply of resources from the U.S. industrial base to support military, energy, space, and homeland security programs,” according to a summary on the Federal Emergency Management Agency website.
“We will be invoking the Defense Production Act just in case we need it,” said Trump.
Vice President Mike Pence, head of the coronavirus task force, urged all Americans to put off elective surgery to allow hospitals to concentrate on the rising influx of patients with the COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by the new virus.
Deborah Birx, a member of the task force, urged young people to adhere to government guidelines, calling for a 15-day effort to slow the spread of the virus. Young people are considered key transmitters of the virus, which can be passed along even with mild or no symptoms.
There are now more than 7,000 U.S. cases of the illness and over 100 deaths.
(Reporting By Jeff Masonm, Steve Holland, Alexandra Alper, Doina Chiacu, Susan Heavey, Lisa Lambert; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Berkrot)
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