President Trump announced Wednesday that he had signed an executive order claiming emergency powers under the 1950 Defense Production Act, allowing him to order U.S. manufacturers to increase production of dwindling medical supplies like masks and respirators, and had dispatched two Navy hospital ships to New York City and somewhere on the West Coast to help manage the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Trump clarified in a Wednesday night tweet that while he signed the executive order activating the Defense Production Act, he only did so "should we need to invoke it in a worst case scenario in the future," and "hopefully there will be no need." Defense Secretary Mark Esper also told CNN that the two ships — the USS Comfort and USS Mercy — won't deploy for at least 10 days. The Comfort, headed to New York, is undergoing maintenance in Virginia for "a couple weeks," he added, and neither ship will treat coronavirus patients.
"Again they're geared toward trauma, and what we can do is to create space in local hospitals by peeling off their trauma patients putting them through our field hospitals," Esper told CNN. Each ship has about 1,000 beds, and Esper also offered more than 1,000 beds in military field hospitals that will also not take coronavirus patients. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday his state will need an additional 50,000 beds to handle the coronavirus outbreak.