Governors asked the Trump administration for help. But the president said the federal government isn’t a “shipping clerk.”
President Donald Trump is now in Arizona, and will be visiting a Honeywell facility now producing respirator masks in an effort to combat the nation’s shortage of protective medical equipment.
Trump’s visit comes at a time when he has encouraged states to begin reopening businesses and building back up the economy despite many states, including Arizona, not yet meeting White House guidelines. Those criteria include a two-week downward trend in new coronavirus cases and deaths, as well as an adequate supply of medical equipment.
Arizona has struggled to get the medical equipment it needs from the federal government’s National Strategic Stockpile. For example, when Ducey requested 5,000 ventilators, the state received 100. Healthcare workers in the state were told to reuse their masks and other gear even when working with different patients, and the country fell behind on testing as states struggled to obtain test kits.
Governors and other elected officials across the country have complained of an inability to communicate with the federal government and receive supplies from them. Trump has put the onus to find supplies on state and local officials, saying the federal government isn’t a “shipping clerk.”
In early April, Ducey announced that Honeywell made a deal to produce more than six million N-95 masks over the next year. Trump praised the company for doing its “patriotic duty” by stepping up to make the supplies.
It’s unclear if the president will wear a mask when he visits the facility Tuesday. As he addressed reporters before leaving the White House for Arizona, he reportedly said, “I think it’s a mask facility. If it’s a mask facility, I will.”
When Vice President Pence visited a Mayo Clinic facility in Minnesota last week, he chose not to wear a mask, but later said he should have.
Stanton Criticizes Trump’s Trip
Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Phoenix, released a statement Monday criticizing Trump’s visit to Arizona as Navajo Nation continues to struggle with a high number of coronavirus cases and little supplies.
“It is a moral failing that the President will visit Arizona during a time he has ignored the urgent pleas from Navajo leadership. He has the power to make a difference, and he has done nothing,” Stanton wrote.
Congress passed a coronavirus relief act last month that included $8 billion in aid for tribes. However, a number of tribes filed a lawsuit against the Treasury Department asking that Alaska Native corporations not to be included in the aid. A judge recently ruled in the tribes’ favor, but that money has yet to be dispersed.
Stanton also said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez contacted Trump a month ago to ask that a local cost share on emergency funds be eliminated, but New has yet to receive a response.
“The President is visiting Phoenix to applaud workers who have gone above and beyond to make a difference in this time of need; it’s well past time he followed their lead and did his job,” Stanton wrote.
The President’s Future Travel
Trump has stayed close to the nation’s capital since he declared a national emergency in mid-March. He has traveled to Virginia and Maryland, but Arizona is his first trip across multiple states in the pandemic.
To avoid the possibility of Trump getting sick while traveling, Honeywell employees and anyone who comes in contact with him must undergo a “rapid point-of-care test” to see if they are carrying the coronavirus.
But a former presidential staffer pointed out it’s not only Trump at risk during these visits – it’s also the people who travel with and meet with him. Arizona Republicans Sen. Martha McSally and Reps. Debbie Lesko and Paul Gosar announced Monday they would be joining Trump on Air Force One to and from their home state.
“I think there is a value of seeing our leaders out in the country and escaping the White House,” Matt Bennett, former Vice President Al Gore’s trip director, told The Associated Press. “But it has to be balanced against the cost. The cost here could be the health and safety of a lot of people.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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