WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday he is invoking the Defense Production Act to mobilize U.S. private production capacity to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
Trump also said his administration is “suspending all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April” to help those affected by the virus.
The Defense Production Act, enacted in 1950, allows the president to force American businesses to produce materials in the national defense, such as ventilators and medical supplies for health care workers.
Trump said the act allows him to do “a lot of good things, if we need it.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., had earlier called on Trump to use those authorities to address a shortage of medical supplies.
“It’s used in times of war, but we must mobilize as if it were a time of war when it comes to hospital beds, supplies and equipment,” Schumer said Wednesday morning on the Senate floor.
At Wednesday’s press briefing, Trump said he considers himself a “wartime president” and called the coronavirus the “enemy.”
The president also referred to the coronavirus as “the Chinese Virus” during his briefing, as he had in a tweet Wednesday morning and other times in recent days. When asked at the press conference about his use of the phrase amid reports of backlash against Asian Americans because of the coronavirus, the president said it’s “not racist at all.”
“It comes from China, that’s why,” he said.
Many officials, including the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have condemned the phrase, saying it’s inaccurate and potentially harmful because it promotes racist associations between the coronavirus and people from China.
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Trump said at the briefing that he is activating the Federal Emergency Management Agency in all regions of the country to aid in the coronavirus response. The president also said he is deploying two Navy hospital ships to California and New York as coronavirus cases rise in those two states.
Administration officials also mentioned developments at the Food and Drug Administration that they would announce at a later time.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump announced that the United States and Canada had agreed to close their border to all “nonessential traffic” because of the spread of the coronavirus.