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Whitmer glad Trump invoked DPA over ventilators, says GM ready to start

As coronavirus spreads across the U.S., there have been conflicting messages from the Trump administration, governors and medical professionals about the scarcity of critical medical resources -- especially ventilators. Amna Nawaz reports on the growing need for these lifesaving machines and talks to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who says her state will require many more of them.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The scramble for scarce medical equipment you have been hearing about has been further complicated by conflicting messages from the Trump administration from governors and medical professionals.

    A key question at this moment, does the U.S. have enough ventilators or not?

    Amna Nawaz takes a closer look at the efforts to ramp up emergency protection equipment.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    It's become one of the most crucial pieces of equipment to treat critical coronavirus patients, the ventilator.

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo:

    Good morning.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Governors across the country have made desperate pleas this week for more.

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo:

    We need, at a minimum, an additional 30,000 ventilators. You cannot buy them. You cannot find them. Every state is trying to get them.

  • Gov. Larry Hogan:

    We did have delivery of ventilators. It wasn't the amount we requested, and not enough, but it was — we appreciate them.

  • Gov. Jay Inslee:

    We have had some help from the federal government. We think we have a commitment of several hundred ventilators, but we need more than that, and that's why we're searching the globe.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Last night, President Trump spoke by phone with FOX News' Sean Hannity, questioning how many ventilators are really needed.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they're going to be. I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    But then, by today, on Twitter, he pressed both General Motors and Ford to manufacture ventilators, and fast.

    Both automakers have volunteered to convert some of their manufacturing facilities to make the ventilators that are in short supply. There's also what's known as the Strategic National Stockpile, a government reserve that helps bolster health care systems in a crisis.

    But there were only 16,600 ventilators in it. And the total estimate in all hospitals across the country is 160,000. That is a fraction of what medical experts say they need.

  • Kamini Doobay:

    At the rate that this virus is exponentially transmitting, our transmission at this stage, I go home every single night and think about, what if we had to decide between two patients?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    One way to get ventilators to hospitals faster would be if President Trump fully invoked the Defense Production Act. He's been reluctant to do it, until today, this afternoon requiring General Motors to prioritize federal contracts for ventilators.

    Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is among those appealing to the Trump administration for more ventilators and additional critical supplies. She's a Democrat. And she joins me now from East Lansing.

    Governor Whitmer, welcome to the "NewsHour."

    As we talk today, I should mention your state has just seen the biggest single-day increase in cases, more than 800 over the last day. You will likely need more of those ventilators.

    And the president, which we just mentioned, is going to ask GM to make more of them, so you can get them sooner. What's your response to that?

  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer:

    Well, I'm glad for it, to be honest. I think that every state in the nation is confronting what Michigan is right now, maybe not as fiercely as we are in the moment, but it's coming across this nation.

    We are seeing hospitals that are to capacity already. And we're just days into this. We're going to continue to see this climb. And we know that, with COVID-19, there being no vaccine, no cure, how contagious and deadly it is, that there will be a massive need for ventilators across the country.

    And so the Defense Production Act is something that was relied on during the — World War II. We were the arsenal of democracy right in Michigan. And ramping up and producing is going to be very important.

    And so I know that the leadership at General Motors is tough and ready to take this on. But we need to all be in this and do our part.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Let me ask you to clarify some numbers, if you can, on the ventilators, because there's been a lot of confusion around this.

    How many do you have? How many do you need? And have you gotten any from the federal government so far?

  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer:

    Well, we have been working incredibly hard to make sure that we have got ventilators, that we are bringing ventilators that had been retired. We're revamping them and bringing them back online.

    We know that, no matter how many we have, we're going to need more.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Do you know what that need is in Michigan?

  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer:

    We're going to — we're going to need thousands.

    I mean, at this point, we are trying to mitigate how many people get sick from COVID-19. And that's why we have been so aggressive in terms of our stay-at-home orders and pulling kids out of school. So that's part of the challenge here.

    There's not enough data, because there's not enough testing. And so modeling shows us that anywhere between a million or less people will need to be hospitalized at some point in Michigan, if we're not really aggressive now. And that's what's driven the decisions we have made.

    But we know that we have got to continue to ramp up. There are not enough ventilators, so no matter what the number is today, for the need that we anticipate tomorrow and the days coming, as this continues to grow in my state.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    You mentioned the stay-at-home order that you issued back on March 23.

    We should note, just in the last week, Michigan has seen a 566 percent jump in the number of cases in the state. But you didn't make a major disaster declaration request to the federal government until March 26.

    In those just three days, the cases more than doubled. Did you wait too long to do that?

  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer:

    No, I — as you see from other states who have asked for disaster declarations, it hasn't inured to a lot of resources.

    So it is an important thing to do. But my team has been focusing on trying to make sure that we mitigate spread. We have been working very closely with the Army Corps of Engineers, with FEMA, with Department of Homeland Security.

    I have been working closely with the vice president. We have been pulling out all the stops on all fronts. And so this was one additional step, and it's an important one. But it's certainly not the only thing that we're doing to make sure that we're able to draw on all of the resources and harness all of the power behind the federal government to assist in our efforts to make sure we have got the masks and the gloves and the gowns that our front-line providers so desperately need.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Can I ask you, Governor? Because the president's been very critical of GM. He said today in his statement that they have been wasting time.

    GM and Ford are both headquartered in your state. Do you believe that those corporations have been doing as much as they can to provide some of that critical equipment?

  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer:

    They have. And they have been great partners.

    And I can just say this. I don't think anyone wants to spend energy fighting one another. We have to band together and fight COVID-19. We have to do that as a nation. And that means all hands on deck, from the great companies that built the middle class like General Motors and Ford, to every individual doing their part.

    This is how we get through this crisis. We have gotten through crises in the past. And we are successful when we all remember what the enemy is.

    And, in this case, it's — you can't see the enemy, but it's COVID-19, and it is ravaging our country. And that's why we need to have a national strategy, and we all have to lock arms and be united on this.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan joining us today.

    Thanks for your time, Governor.

  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer:

    Thank you.

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