New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) praised President Trump’s decision to invoke the Defense Production Act to force General Motors to manufacture hospital ventilators for coronavirus patients, but declined to join the president in criticizing the company’s turnaround time on the devices.
“I applaud the president on his use of the Defense Production Act in his conversation about General Motors,” Cuomo said in a CNN interview Friday evening. “That gives him the muscle of the law to get companies to actually respond to the production of ventilators, which is exactly what we want.”
CNN host Erin Burnett asked Cuomo if he believed General Motors was “dragging their feet.”
“Dragging their feet suggests a pejorative,” Cuomo said. “When you use the Defense Production Act and you have the law on your side you can basically order a private company to do something, to manufacture a product. It’s a extreme measure no doubt but this is an extreme time.”
He added: “From the President’s point of view, from what he said, General Motors was not delivering the product and not gearing up. And look, if a corporation is dealing with it’s normal timeframe that suits them, that is one thing, but here the president is saying, ‘I need this product, and I need it fast.’ “
“These ventilators are going to be a matter of life and death,” Cuomo said, “and whether they’re delivered in four weeks or six weeks or 10 weeks or 12 weeks, you’re talking tens of thousands of lives that will be relying on it.”
As covid-19 cases surge in New York and around the country, officials say hospitals are quickly running out of ventilators to treat patients with severe symptoms. The looming shortfalls are all but certain to force doctors to make painstaking life-or-death decisions about which patients they connect to the devices.
In invoking the Cold War-era law, Trump accused GM of “wasting time” and said that his actions would help save lives. But it’s not clear what if anything Trump’s order will do to speed up production. GM is already contracting with a ventilator manufacturer, Ventec Life Systems, and the first batch of the devices are expected to arrive in late April, as The Washington Post reported Friday.
GM said in a statement Friday that it has been working “around the clock for over a week to meet this urgent need.”
“Our commitment to build Ventec’s high-quality critical care ventilator, VOCSN, has never wavered,” the company said.