President Donald Trump announced at a medical supply distribution facility in Pennsylvania Thursday that his administration would undertake "a groundbreaking initiative to replenish and modernize our Strategic National Stockpile" hours after an ousted vaccine chief testified that administration officials ignored his warnings before the pandemic hit that government needed to build it up.
Trump told workers at the Owens & Minor plant in Allentown, Pennsylvania, that they were "part of the greatest mobilization of American society since World War II."
“I'm determined that America will be fully prepared for any of the future outbreaks, of which we hope there's going to be none," Trump said. "Instead of one-to-three weeks' worth of supplies, which we had less than that, the U.S. government will now stockpile three whole months, much of it made in the U.S.A."
His remarks at the event in a 2020 election battleground state were met with roaring applause, giving it the feel a Trump campaign rally, with his normal campaign music blaring.
After a week of continued pressure on Democratic governors to roll back coronavirus-related restrictions, Trump took another shot at Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, for reopening "slowly," as he did earlier this week in a tweet, even as the state practices caution in line with guidelines issued by his own White House.
"You have to get your governor of Pennsylvania to start opening up a little bit," Trump told the crowd. "You have areas of Pennsylvania that are barely affected, and they want to keep them closed. Can't do that."
Wolf said earlier this week that businesses resuming services before the state allows could be hit with penalties.
"We are fighting a war that has taken the lives of too many people. And we're winning," Wolf tweeted. The politicians who are encouraging us to quit the fight are acting in a most cowardly way."
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The president also downplayed the importance of testing, just days after holding a Rose Garden event touting that America's testing capability.
"We have the best testing in the world," he said. "Could be the testing's, frankly, overrated. Maybe, it is overrated. But whenever they start yelling, 'We want more, we want more,' you know, they always say, 'We want more, we want more' 'cause they don't want to give you credit. Then, we do more and they say, 'We want more.'"
He did not wear a mask although dozens of workers at the Owens & Minor plant around him did.
The visit marked his second major trip outside Washington in over two months. Last week, he flew to a factory churning out masks in Arizona, which like Pennsylvania, is a state that could prove key to the president's reelection.
The attacks on Wolf, meanwhile, fit a pattern in which Trump has pushed for economic activity to restart even as his own coronavirus task force warns doing so too rapidly could accelerate the spread of the virus.
The president has made the state of the U.S. economy a centerpiece of his reelection platform, and he has increasingly looked to blame the virus' devastating fiscal toll on governors who have called the shots with stay-at-home orders and other restrictions.
Wolf finds himself among a growing list of Democratic governors Trump has lambasted for not removing restrictions more quickly.
The president said Wednesday afternoon in a White House meeting with the governors of Colorado and North Dakota that – while those two "want to get their states open" – "some governors and some -- perhaps partisans -- maybe for election reasons don't want to have their states open." He provided no evidence.
Last week, he raised the idea that those keeping restrictions in place for longer could be trying to hurt him politically, again providing no evidence for this assertion.
"Some people think they're doing it for politics," the president said in an interview with Fox News. "Here we go again. But they think they are doing it because it'll hurt me, the longer it takes to -- hurt me in the election, the longer it takes to open up."
The president has frequently criticized the Democratic governors of Illinois and Michigan, and last month tweeted calls to "LIBERATE" Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia as demonstrators there protested against restrictions.
Those states have all taken some steps to loosen restrictions, although not as quickly as some of their Republican counterparts, like in Georgia and Florida. In Pennsylvania, for example, Wolf has endorsed a color-coded, phased system for reopening that has already allowed some in-person retails stores and small gatherings to take place in parts of the state.
An ABC News analysis of data compiled by the New York Times found that no state has fully met the recommendations laid out by the White House last month for reopening, including a two-week decline in new reported cases.
While they do not meet the White House criteria for starting to reopen, most of the Democratic-run states Trump has targeted are all battlegrounds in the 2020 election.
Meanwhile, the government's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned senators in a hearing Tuesday that the "consequences could be really serious" if states and localities reopen too soon.
Later Tuesday, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner praised Fauci's knowledge of infectious diseases but said difficult decisions about reopening were up to elected officials -- like governors.
"You have a lot of policymakers like the president or the governors who were elected by the people in their states and in their country to take the input of the experts and professionals, and then make decisions weighing a lot of different factors," Kushner said in an interview with TIME.
"There's risks to anything, but the president carries the burden of the 30 million Americans who have lost their jobs," he said, adding that "a lot of people have learned how to live with the virus now" and "perform best practices."
"Anybody's welcome to visit the state," the Pennsylvania governor told reporters Tuesday, according to PennLive. "I would urge anybody coming to Pennsylvania to respect our efforts to stay safe, to keep people safe and businesses, wherever he visits. I hope he does everything in his power to keep employees safe."
Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle, who represents parts of Philadelphia, called Trump's tour "a thinly veiled campaign stop."
"Cancel the visit tomorrow," Boyle said in an interview with CNN Wednesday. "Don't put other people at risk given how many people are involved in any presidential visit, and instead, stay at home, do your job, get us closer to solving this unbelievable crisis."
What to know about coronavirus:
- How it started and how to protect yourself: coronavirus explained
- What to do if you have symptoms: coronavirus symptoms
- Tracking the spread in the US and Worldwide: coronavirus map