KEY POINTS

  • The U.S. now has more confirmed coronavirus infections than any other country
  • The U.S. death toll has topped 1,300
  • Hospitals say they are desperately short of equipment, especially ventilators and protective gear

President Trump criticized General Motors Friday, saying it will be able to deliver only 6,000 of the 40,000 ventilators initially promised to help victims of coronavirus – and that won’t happen for another month.

“As usual with this General Motors, things just never seem to work out,” Trump tweeted, blaming CEO Mary Barra.

He said the federal government has bought “many ventilators from some wonderful companies.

GM had said it would retool its Kokomo, Indiana, plant to produce ventilators with technology from Ventec Life Systems. The company said it would put several hundred million dollars upfront to get production started but the effort would cost more than $1 billion.

The Society of Critical Care Medicine in New York has estimated the United States will need as many as 1 million respirators to handle the pandemic. Currently the U.S. has 160,000 to 200,000.

The Trump administration balked at the price tag and said it was examining other proposals. A Request for Information was put out to get bids from other companies.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said New York alone will need as many as 30,000 ventilators to deal with the pandemic. New York City already has reported at least 365 deaths from COVID-19, more than a quarter of the more than 1,300 deaths nationally.

Trump has accused Cuomo of exaggerating the need, despite evidence nurses have resorted to wearing garbage bags because they lack access to adequate protective gear.

“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” Trump said on Fox News. “You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”

He alleged Friday thousands of  ventilators from the federal government had been found in storage in New York.

GM has been working with Ventec and the retooling had been going well. Ventec said it was on course to produce as many as 20,000 ventilators a month.

GM spokesman Daniel Flores said late Thursday the company had acquired all the parts needed for the ventilators.

“The Ventec and GM team is working around the clock to meet the need for more ventilators,” Flores said.

Governors have been pushing Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to meet the need but the president has been reluctant to do so. Economic adviser Peter Navarro said Trump has been talking to major corporations and getting positive responses without invoking the act.