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Trump: I have a feeling that we dont need 40,000 or even 30,000 ventilators; Update: Trump invokes DPA

Does he not understand why hospitals might suddenly need many, many more ventilators right now than they would usually carry in normal times? Have we reached the level of disconnect from the reality of our predicament where that needs to be formally explained to him?

“I have a feeling.”

Andrew Cuomo said yesterday that 30,000 ventilators is his team’s best estimate of what New York State will need at the peak of cases two weeks from now. Rod Dreher summarizes Trump’s response as “Let them breathe cake.” Democrats will be cutting attack ads from the clip above from now until the end of time.

But hold on. He said that on live TV around 15 hours ago. Two hours ago, he demanded publicly to know … why GM hasn’t provided him with 40,000 ventilators yet.

If he has a “feeling” we don’t need so many ventilators, why is he complaining about the lack of ventilators?

“P” stands for “Defense Production Act,” he went on to clarify. Does someone also need to explain to him who has the authority to invoke the Defense Production Act? After weeks of everyone from Elizabeth Warren to Ted Cruz calling on him to use it, he can’t possibly be under the impression that it’s someone else’s job.

Also, is his tweet an official executive order invoking the Act and ordering GM to reopen the Lordstown plant (didn’t they sell that plant?) or is it just him popping off?

Five days ago the Times reported that American companies were flummoxed by the federal government’s strategy on how to involve the private sector in fighting the virus. They’re willing to pitch in, but “there is still widespread confusion about how much and what exactly each firm is supposed to produce. Corporate executives say they face a bewildering number of requests from dozens of nations around the world, along with governors and mayors around the country, for scarce supplies. The White House has not said who will set the priority list for deliveries.” We’re seeing that bewilderment play out right here, in real time, via a 30-second video clip and a pair of tweets. Imagine what it’s like behind the scenes.

Actually, we don’t need to imagine:

The White House had been preparing to reveal on Wednesday a joint venture between General Motors and Ventec Life Systems that would allow for the production of as many as 80,000 desperately needed ventilators to respond to an escalating pandemic when word suddenly came down that the announcement was off.

The decision to cancel the announcement, government officials say, came after the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it needed more time to assess whether the estimated cost was prohibitive. That price tag was more than $1 billion, with several hundred million dollars to be paid upfront to General Motors to retool a car parts plant in Kokomo, Ind., where the ventilators would be made with Ventec’s technology…

He has been directing officials at FEMA in the effort. Two officials said the suggestion to wait on the General Motors offer came from Col. Patrick Work, who is working at FEMA. Some government officials expressed concern about the possibility of ordering too many ventilators, leaving them with an expensive surplus.

They just dropped $2 trillion on a fiscal relief package. They’re staring at an epidemic that’s going to burn through the entire country. Even in the very unlikely event that the crisis isn’t as bad as scientists project and we don’t need every last new ventilator produced, the surplus could be sold off or donated to other countries that need them. Or added to the federal emergency stockpile so that they’re ready for the next epidemic.

Faced with all of that, they’re dawdling over a billion dollars.

GM has been working around the clock to start rolling ventilators off the lines, too. It’s the feds who can’t get their act together:

GM was growing exasperated with the Trump administration because after more than a week of around-the-clock work, the carmaker and Ventec had turned an auto-parts plant in Kokomo, Indiana, into a near-ready ventilator-assembly facility. Suppliers are secured for the 700 components needed to make the machines. The automaker has even started hiring because the 300 workers on staff won’t be enough to handle the proposed volume, a person familiar with the situation said.

The holdup now is that the federal government hasn’t decided how many machines it will need, how many producers it will hire and, by extension, how much it will have to pay Ventec. Originally, the two manufacturers were talking about $250 million that would go to the Seattle-based company and its components suppliers to get production moving, said people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the project hasn’t been finalized.

From the testing fiasco to the endless downplaying of the threat as the virus spread to the confusing and slow-footed federal response once everyone began scrambling to the chatter about reopening parts of the country for business way before it’s safe to do so, this may end up as the worst government response to a major crisis in our lifetimes. And we’ve seen some really bad government responses to crises in our lifetimes. Maybe the Oxford study will bail us all out. Maybe hydroxychloroquine or remdesivir will be the magic bullet that saves everyone. But blind luck has already become our best option for getting out of this without an utter public health catastrophe. (Too late to avoid an economic catastrophe.) There’s no way the feds, starting but not ending with Trump, are up to the task of managing our way out of this.

Trump said in a separate tweet today that they’ve purchased some ventilators from other companies and will announce details later. Here’s Cuomo responding to his mind-boggling “I have a feeling” comment last night.

Update: POTUS has a new feeling that we do need ventilators ASAP and has finally invoked the Defense Production Act to turn GM loose.

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