President Donald Trump said Sunday that he had activated National Guard units in New York, California, and Washington state to help fight against the rapidly spreading coronavirus. The deployment is not equal to martial law and Trump emphasized that governors “remain in command” even though the federal government “will be funding 100 percent of the cost” of deploying the units. “We’re dealing also with other states. These states have been hit the hardest,” Trump said at a briefing in the White House.
Trump made the announcement amid criticism from governors and mayors that the federal government was not doing enough to help them face the growing crisis. Some described a feeling of being alone in the battle without guidance from the federal government. “We’re all building the airplane as we fly it right now,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said on ABC’s This Week. “It would be nice to have a national strategy.” The president has also been criticized for not using the Defense Production Act, which would compel companies to produce much-needed products, including ventilators and protective masks.
Trump defended the decision not to implement the Defense Production Act on Sunday. “Call a person over in Venezuela,” Trump said. “Ask them, how did nationalization of their businesses work out? Not too well. The concept of nationalizing our businesses is not a good concept.”
Earlier in the day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had called on Trump to nationalize the effort to obtain protective medical equipment. “I think the federal government should order factories to manufacture masks, gowns, ventilators,” Cuomo said. “The essential medical equipment, that’s going to make a difference between life and death.” Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois said on CNN that states were competing against each other in trying to get protective gear. “This should have been a coordinated effort by the federal government,” he said. “It’s a wild — Wild West, I would say, out there.”
The United States now has the third-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, after China and Italy, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker. The number of confirmed cases in the United States passed the 33,000-mark Sunday while the number of infections globally increased to more than 300,000. In the United States, almost one-in-three Americans were under orders to stay home in an effort to stop the stem of the virus. The latest states to order their residents to stay inside included Ohio, Louisiana, and Delaware. “Every piece of evidence that I can lay my hands on indicates that we’re at an absolutely crucial time in this war and what we do now will make all the difference in the world,” Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said. “What we do now will slow this invader.”