President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he is invoking the Defense Protection Act to marshal the private sector amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Korean War-era act allows the federal government to sign contracts or fulfill orders deemed necessary for national defense – in this case, emergency medical supplies.
The president has also activated FEMA at level one, which is the highest level.
Trump says, amid the coronavirus outbreak, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will be providing immediate relief to renters and homeowners by suspending all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April.
The announcements came just hours after the United States and Canada agreed to temporarily close the northern border to “non-essential traffic.”
In a tweet, the President clarified that trade between the two countries would not be affected.
When asked if he was sure the shipments could not carry the virus, Trump ensured reporters that packaging facilities are using the utmost caution to prevent the spread of the virus.
On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has been in self quarantine after his wife tested positive for the virus, said he would close the country's borders to anyone not a citizen, an American or a permanent resident and those people would have to self-isolate for 14 days upon entering the country.
President Donald Trump also confirmed that the federal government would be sending two hospital ships to California and New York.
He described the “white ships with the red cross on the side” as “massive” and said they were in “tip-top shape” to treat patients.
They will not be used to treat COVID-19 patients, but rather those who are sickened by other ailments. Patients will be moved there to free up hospital space for coronavirus patients.
Vice President Mike Pence also urged all hospitals in the United States to delay elective surgeries for the time being. He said the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma would issue federal guidance on elective procedures.
The president and his Coronavirus Task Force seemed confident that the steps being taken would help flatten the curve of infection.
Trump noted that U.S. researchers have already began human vaccine trials and praised scientists quick work in stopping the spread.
“That’s the fastest development in history,” Trump said. “It’s a record by many, many months. It used to take years.”
He hopes to improve testing capabilities further by allowing patients to “self-swab” for infection – which would also free up healthcare workers.