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White House Trade Advisor Peter Navarro says his focus as the newly appointed Defense Production Act coordinator is on preventing “bottlenecks or delays” in getting medical supplies to the front lines of the war against coronavirus.
“We work in hours now to move things along, not days or months,” Navarro said Sunday on “Fox & Friends Weekend.”
“The president has mobilized the full force of the federal government, but we’ve also seen the full power of private enterprise join hands with us,” he said, noting the many “good stories” about American companies “voluntarily coming to the table, repurposing their manufacturing.”
Navarro said he found out Sunday that there are more than 500 distillery companies, including Bacardi, that are making hand sanitizer during the coronavirus pandemic.
On Friday, President Trump said he had directed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to require General Motors to begin making ventilators under the Defense Production Act after negotiations with the automaker had stalled.
“Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too great to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course,” Trump said in a statement, adding: “GM was wasting time.”
Experts say the U.S. is hundreds of thousands of breathing machines short of what it likely will need to treat a rapidly rising number of COVID-19 patients. New York, Michigan, Louisiana and the state of Washington are struggling to treat surging numbers of patients.
As of Sunday morning, more than 124,000 coronavirus cases had been confirmed in the U.S. with more than 2,100 deaths, according to data compiled by Fox News.
“These ventilators are really crucial because they’re the last line of defense for people who become seriously ill,” Navarro said Sunday.
“We know what we need,” he said of medical supplies, and “we’re out there getting it.”
Navarro said he spent Saturday “making sure we talked to over 12 ventilator companies to nail down what that production schedule was going to be like.”
Navarro said his “hope” is that by Trump invoking the Defense Production Act “GM got the message.”
He said more than 1,500 workers will be working in GM’s Kokomo, Ind., manufacturing facility starting Sunday, making “thousands of ventilators.”
“We’d love to see the first one roll off in 30 days,” Navarro said, adding that the ventilators will go to hospitals in New York, Detroit, New Orleans, Chicago “and everywhere across this country that needs them.”
He acknowledged that the Defense Production Act “should only be used sparingly to order companies to do things.”
Navarro encouraged any company that wants to help during the pandemic to get in touch with “somebody in your trade association, contact the White House, and we’ll get you plugged in.”
Fox News’ Louis Casiano contributed to this report.