Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, said Monday night that as the coronavirus “began to spread, the president acted quickly and ensured ventilators got to hospitals that needed them most.” He claimed that Trump “delivered PP and E to our brave frontline workers” and that “he rallied the mighty American private sector, to tackle this new challenge.”
Doctors, public health experts and a prominent Republican governor on the front lines of the pandemic have sharply criticized how slowly the Trump White House responded to the coronavirus, including the delays in the distribution of ventilators and personal protective equipment. Trump Jr.’s remarks omit Trump’s own comments from January to March, months in which the president downplayed the threat and predicted the virus would disappear — time public health experts have contended cost the U.S. in terms of all-important testing.
Maryland’s Larry Hogan, a Republican, ripped Trump’s slow and “bungled” federal response on testing, ventilators and other equipment. Hogan, in fact, was so frustrated with the federal government’s inability to help the state acquire testing kits that he cut a deal with the South Korean government himself, going around the Trump administration, to acquire 500,000 testing kits for his state.
“I’d watched as the president downplayed the outbreak’s severity and as the White House failed to issue public warnings, draw up a 50-state strategy, or dispatch medical gear or lifesaving ventilators from the national stockpile to American hospitals. Eventually, it was clear that waiting around for the president to run the nation’s response was hopeless; if we delayed any longer, we’d be condemning more of our citizens to suffering and death,” Hogan wrote in an editorial for The Washington Post last month.
Trump, meanwhile, said on March 18 that he was going to invoke the Defense Production Act — a 1950 law allowing the president to force American businesses to produce materials in the national defense, such as ventilators and medical supplies for health care workers — but waited a week to actually invoke it, finally using it on March 27, to force GM to make ventilators.
During that key stretch, even hospitals and doctors implored the administration to use the Defense Production Act to increase the capacity to produce needed equipment. In a March 21 letter to Trump, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association all urged Trump to, “Immediately use the DPA to increase the domestic production of medical supplies and equipment that hospitals, health systems, physicians, nurses and all front line providers so desperately need.”
Meanwhile, Trump repeatedly dismissed how necessary masks were in helping to contain the spread of the disease until the middle of July — even though public health experts had long said that wearing masks in public is one of the best tools people have to cut down on transmission of the virus — saying at various points that he wanted “people to have a certain freedom” and that “masks cause problems, too.”
In April, most Americans agreed that that Trump was too slow in his initial response to the threat, according to Pew Research.