During a briefing at the White House on Sunday, President Donald Trump said he would use the Defense Production Act to force medical manufacturers to create more swabs that can be used in COVID-19 tests.
Trump's comments come after weeks of requests from state governors for help in increasing coronavirus testing capacity.
On Sunday, Trump reported that the U.S. had tested 4 million people for the coronavirus, the most in the world. However, U.S. tests represent about 1 percent of the population, and currently only has the capacity to test those who are most at risk for the disease. Health experts agree that more testing needs to be conducted in order to more fully understand how the virus behaves.
Trump also said Sunday that he expects about 60,000 Americans would ultimately die of the coronavirus — down from his administration's initial best-case scenario of 100,000 deaths earlier this month.
"The American people have done a hell of a job," Trump said.
Trump's press briefing came hours after the number of confirmed deaths linked to COVID-19 reached 40,000, according to a database kept by Johns Hopkins University.
During Sunday's briefing, Vice President Mike Pence said that the White House coronavirus task force will have a conference call with state governors Monday to discuss guidance for reopening state economies. This also comes as governors weigh the decision to relax social distancing guidelines to allow non-essential workers to return to their jobs.
Last week, Trump initially declared he held power to "reopen" states and would ultimately decide as to when workers could return to their jobs. On Thursday, he walked back those claims when rolling out his administration's formal plan to re-start the U.S. economy. Those plans leave ultimate authority up to states but said some workers could return to their jobs as early as next month. A handful of Midwest states have said they plan to reopen by May 1.
The decision state governors face on reopening economies has become increasingly political in recent days. Protests have taken place in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Texas and other states, as conservative groups call on governors to relax social distancing guidelines. Trump appeared to back those protesters in a series of Friday tweets calling for the "liberation" of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Virginia.
Trump reiterated his support for the protests during a briefing on Saturday, and also defended one of his administration's economists who compared the protesters to "modern-day Rosa Parks."
During Sunday's briefing, Trump assured that anyone seeking to protest social distancing orders "are allowed" to do so.
Trump also faced more questions from reporters about his administration's inaction in February in regard to virus. Trump failed to provide examples of actions he took against the virus outside of a travel ban instituted to China, and had a tense exchange with a reporter, which he at one point told to "keep your voice down."
Trump used his task force briefing to tout his administration's response to the virus, saying that the U.S.'s testing capabilities had greatly increased. However, a handful of state governors on Sunday said that more testing is needed to fully understand the virus, according to CNN. Trump on Saturday also said that the nation's stockpile of ventilators had been replenished, and he had even promised foreign countries that he would send along surpluses.