New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Sunday criticized President Donald Trump for not using his powers under the Defense Production Act as she described the lack of protective gear and medical supplies needed to fight the coronavirus in her home state.
“We cannot wait until people start really dying in large numbers to start production, especially of more complicated equipment like ventilators and hospital beds,” Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.” “We need to start this production right now to get ready for the surge that is coming in two to three weeks.”
The President has repeatedly said he’s invoking the act to ramp up production of medical supplies needed to combat the virus, but has not wielded his federal powers yet as health officials voice alarm about potential shortages of lifesaving medical supplies like ventilators, masks and gowns for doctors on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ocasio-Cortez, in describing the situation at hospitals in New York and across the country, said, “There are not enough face masks, gloves, ventilators, hospital beds to get us through this. Many hospitals are already at capacity or are approaching capacity. And there is kind of no real stream in sight from the federal government on where these materials are coming from.”
“You know, companies are donating what they can. That is great. It is not enough,” she continued. “And the fact that the President has not really invoked the Defense Production Act for the purpose of emergency manufacture is going to cost lives.”
There are more than 26,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the US. New York has the most confirmed cases of the virus in the country, with more than 12,000 known cases in the state and more than 6,000 in New York City alone. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has declared New York a “major disaster” as cases surge there. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN on Sunday that “the worst is yet to come,” as “we have seen nothing from the federal government.”
“It sure feels like we are on our own,” de Blasio told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “We haven’t seen any action from the federal government.”
He criticized the President for not using his powers for production, saying, “If we don’t get more ventilators in the next 10 days people will die who don’t have to die. It’s as simple as that.”
On Saturday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced 1 million N95 respirator masks were being sent to New York City. During a press conference in Albany, New York, on Sunday, Cuomo said the national government should nationalize the effort to acquire medical supplies, saying that the “states simply cannot manage this.”
“I think the federal government should order factories to manufacture masks, gowns, ventilators, the essential medical equipment that is going to make the difference between life and death,” he said. “It’s not hard to make a mask or PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) equipment or a gown, but you need companies to do it.”
Ocasio-Cortez, who previously worked as a bartender, spoke about the financial impact the virus is having on the American economy. She mentioned her support for an economic stimulus package and how relief could help those some of the hardest hit Americans in the hospitality industry and hourly workers.
“So one of the issues here, is of course we need to be expanding unemployment, but there are a lot of workers in our economy that will not be covered by unemployment because they’re hourly workers, they’re gig workers, they are freelance and contract workers,” she said. “And so what we really need to do – and really that’s why these checks – getting checks into people’s hands is important. I do think it should be universal.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Sunday.