President Donald Trump announced Friday in a tweet that the federal government had “just purchased many Ventilators from some wonderful companies," following weeks of calls for the federal government to send more of the machines to states hit hard by the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“Names and numbers will be announced later today!” the president said in his tweet.
Healthcare providers have warned of shortages of needed ventilators that can make the difference between life and death when treating seriously ill patients suffering from COVID-19, as the United States has now become the country with the most confirmed cases of the virus in the world.
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While the White House has yet to unveil which companies have secured federal funding -- or how many ventilators it had purchased -- a source familiar told ABC News earlier Friday that the administration had been weighing more than a dozen bids from private companies.
While Vice President Mike Pence has been leading the administration's coronavirus task force, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has overseen the procurement of ventilators and other desperately needed protective gear in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The president’s tweets Friday came after the New York Times reported Thursday night that an expected joint venture between General Motors and Ventec Life Systems to produce as many as 80,000 ventilators was called off after FEMA said it needed more time to assess whether the estimated cost was prohibitive.
The president on Friday morning blasted GM for coming up short of what he said the company initially promised and personally attacked the company’s female CEO Mary Barra, tweeting things are “always a mess with Mary B.”
Trump clarified in a later tweet that “Invoke ‘P’” referred to invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA), a Korean War-era law that gives the president the power to direct civilian businesses to help meet orders for products necessary for the national defense.
ABC News has not confirmed the full details of the Times report, but a personal familiar with the negotiations told ABC News that, in line with the president’s publicly expressed frustration with GM, the administration pumped the brakes on the prospective deal because it was unsatisfied with the timeline of how long it would take for production to ramp up to full capacity.
After Trump tweeted, Ventec and GM said in a statement they were poised to deliver their first ventilators by next month and would ramp up to a manufacturing capacity to more than 10,000 per month – although they did not say when they would reach that goal.
Trump's mention of the DPA came even as he has resisted actually using the authorities under the act, which would allow him to order private industry to produce ventilators and other needed goods at prices set by the federal government.
He previously said he liked to wield the law as a “threat” that gives him “leverage” over companies. There is no evidence his administration has yet to use it.
Governors have for weeks pleaded with the federal government to do more to secure ventilators. New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo had said his state needed at least 30,000 soon.
While the president’s tweets represented an urgent call to manufacturers to step up ventilator production, his expressed outrage on Friday comes after he downplayed projected shortages in an interview with Fox News anchor Sean Hannity on Thursday night, in which he disagreed with the chorus of experts calling for more.
"I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators," the president said on Fox News. "You know, you're going to major hospitals sometimes, they'll have two ventilators. And now, all of a sudden, they're saying, can we order 30,000 ventilators?