'People will die': Trump White House objects to $1 billion price tag for 80,000 ventilators
President Donald Trump is expected as early as the end of this week to sign legislation that would establish a $4.5 trillion bailout fund for large corporations, but the prospect of spending around a billion dollars for the production of tens of thousands of much-needed ventilators amid the coronavirus crisis is apparently a bridge too far for the White House.
The New York Times reported late Thursday that the Trump administration abruptly canceled its planned announcement of an agreement with General Motors and Ventec Life Systems "that would allow for the production of as many as 80,000 desperately needed ventilators to respond to an escalating pandemic."
One of the primary reasons for the White House's decision to cancel the announcement set for Wednesday, according to the Times, was the supposedly prohibitive price tag.
"That price tag was more than $1 billion, with several hundred million dollars to be paid upfront to General Motors to retool a car parts plant in Kokomo, Ind., where the ventilators would be made with Ventec's technology," the Times reported. "Government officials said that the deal might still happen but that they are examining at least a dozen other proposals."
Trump, to the dismay of state officials across the U.S., has thus far refused to utilize the Defense Production Act to order private corporations to produce necessary medical equipment, insisting that his administration can make a deal with companies to do so without being compelled by the federal government.
But hospitals around the nation are issuing dire warnings of supply shortages as the coronavirus continues to spread rapidly, and experts are calling on Trump to stop dragging his feet.
"As governors and local leaders around the country are making clear, private efforts without more extensive government support are proving far from sufficient to meet the current and anticipated needs," more than 100 national security experts wrote in a letter to the president this week.
Some officials in the Trump administration, according to the Times, are worried about the opposite problem: too much medical equipment. "Officials expressed concern about the possibility of ordering too many ventilators, leaving them with an expensive surplus," the Times reported.
"Think about this. He's going to kill thousands of people," tweeted Richard Yeselson, contributing editor at Dissent. "He's holding up a deal for GM to make 80k ventilators a month right now because he thinks we might have an oversupply of ventilators when we’re dealing with a lethal respiratory virus! Monster."
In an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity Thursday night, Trump suggested New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was exaggerating when he said Tuesday that his state—the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.— needs 30,000 additional ventilators for hospitals to have the capacity to respond effectively to the influx of sick patients.
"I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you go into major hospitals, sometimes they'll have two ventilators," Trump said. "And now, all of a sudden they're saying can we order 30,000 ventilators. So, look, it's a very bad situation, we haven't seen anything like it, but the end result is we gotta get back to work, and I think we can start by opening up certain parts of the country."
"This is monstrous and people will die," MSNBC host Chris Hayes tweeted in response to Trump's remarks.