The first rule for politics in a crisis is: When in doubt, order it out. After weeks of complaints about a lack of testing capacity in the COVID-19 pandemic and assurances that capacity is coming, Donald Trump has decided to hack right through the Gordian knot instead. Politico reported late last night that Trump will use his authority under the Defense Production Act to order the manufacture of 20 million test swabs per month, although it’s not initially clear which manufacturer(s) will be required to meet that quota:
President Donald Trump will use the Defense Production Act to compel an unnamed company to produce 20 million more coronavirus testing swabs every month — weeks after labs and public health officials started warning that shortages of these swabs were hurting efforts to ramp up testing nationwide.
In his nightly press briefing on Sunday, Trump repeatedly referred to the swabs as “easy” to procure — especially compared to the ventilators that he has previously compelled companies to manufacture. He even brought a swab as a prop, holding it up next to a Q-Tip before handing it to Vice President Mike Pence.
Asked why his administration waited for weeks to use the Defense Production Act on swabs, Trump alternately claimed that states have “millions coming in” already, that states can procure them on their own, and that governors “don’t know quite where they are” and need the federal government’s help.
“It’s a tremendous hammer,” he said of the DPA. “We have millions of them coming in. They are very easy. … In all fairness, governors could get them themselves. But we are going to do it. We’ll work with the governors and if they can’t do it, we’ll do it.” He added that “we have millions of them coming in very soon.”
CNBC also reported on this last night, noting that it came hours after both Gretchen Whitmer and Ralph Northam called out the administration over the swab shortage. The DPA decision appears, at least, to be a reaction to the chatter on the Sunday morning shows: