The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that it had ordered 30,000 ventilators from General Motors under the Defense Production Act (DPA) — 12 days after President Donald Trump first said he would use the law to order GM to make the equipment.
The department said in its release that just over 6,000 ventilators will be available for shipment by June, and the rest will be shipped to the national stockpile by August. While the GM contract won't address an immediate shortage — the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects peak hospital resource use will occur in three days — the machines are much needed to replenish the depleted stockpile.
According to HHS, the federal government will pay $489 million for the equipment.
"We’re grateful to the GM team for working with the federal government to expand our nation’s supply of ventilators as the pandemic evolves,” HHS Sec. Alex Azar said in a statement.
Wednesday's announcement marks one of the few confirmed times that President Donald Trump has formally invoked the DPA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump holds the belief that the private sector will step up on its own.
According to Politico, Trump also invoked the DPA last week to prevent hoarding or exporting of personal protection equipment used by hospital officials when treating COVID-19 patients. He also invoked the act to prevent 3M from exporting medical masks to other countries, and has tried to speed up the production of ventilators at other manufacturing companies.
Trump originally invoked the DPA on March 27. However, at a press conference that same day, Trump said that negotiations with GM were ongoing.
While the HHS says that the Trump administration has sent thousands of ventilators from the national stockpiles in recent days, state governors have pleaded with Trump to provide more ventilators as hospital resources dwindle.
White House adviser Jared Kushner and Trump have both said that it is the states' own responsibility to acquire their own medical equipment — a system that governors say has states bidding against each other for vital equipment.
The DPA, passed during the Korean War, grants the President the power to require private contractors to make equipment for the U.S. government in the name of defense. According to the New York Times, the Defense Department estimates it uses the law more than 300,000 times a year.