President Trump visits Lehigh Valley
President Donald Trump made his first visit to the Lehigh Valley as president May 14 to tour the Owens & Minor Inc. medical supply distribution center, 7437 Industrial Blvd., Upper Macungie Township.
During a livestream video on the White House Web page, Trump discussed increasing the Strategic National Stockpile, coronavirus testing and state reopening plans.
Trump addressed an audience of several dozen employees, all sitting at least 6 feet apart and wearing masks. Trump did not wear a mask on the tour.
He praised the workers for their dedicated work to provide essential supplies including masks, respirators, gowns and gloves to the “health care warriors” in hospitals fighting the coronavirus, especially in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.
He said the workers “have answered the call in America’s hour of need.
“It’s a critical role you’ve fulfilled incredibly well, or I wouldn’t be here,” Trump said. “I would’ve found someplace else.”
He also said Owens & Minor was one of the distributors participating in the government’s Project Airbridge initiative, bringing in critically needed protective equipment by airlift from overseas.
According to the company website, Owens & Minor has government contracts to produce millions of N95 respirators over the next 18 months and has increased mask manufacturing capacity by 300 percent since the beginning of the pandemic.
“On behalf of our nation, I want to thank you because you’re making America proud,” Trump said. “You’re going to lead the way. With your help, we will vanquish the virus. We’re going to vanquish the plague.”
Trump thanked company president and CEO Edward Pesicka and COO Jeff Jochims and praised accompanying officials including Alex Azar, Health and Human Services secretary; Peter Gaynor, Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator; Adam Boehler, CEO of the United States International Development Finance Corporation; and Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, vice director of logistics, joint staff.
Regarding the state of the Strategic National Stockpile, which was undersupplied for the coronavirus pandemic, Trump blamed former president Barack Obama’s administration, saying it depleted the equipment inventory during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak.
Trump said the revamped stockpile will contain a three-month supply of essential equipment in preparation for future disasters.
“Never again will another president inherit empty shelves or expired products,” Trump said, regarding a plan to increase equipment reserves to create the stockpile.
Additionally, Trump touted the replenishment of the stockpile as part of his “America First” policy stance, saying a majority of the supplies would be American-made and that he would bring critical manufacturing of goods, medicine and emergency supplies, including ventilators, respirators and face shields, to the United States.
Trump said an executive order has recently been signed invoking the Defense Production Act to give the IDFC, which usually invests in overseas development projects, the authority to invest in domestic companies, a move Trump said would bring “vital factories, pharmaceutical producers and, most importantly, jobs back home where they belong.”
Trump said the United States had just completed 10 million coronavirus tests and CVS had committed to establishing up to 1,000 new coronavirus testing sites by the end of May.
“If you add up all of the countries in the world, we’ve done more testing than all of the countries in the world added up together,” he said.
According to the coronavirus testing data set compiled by University of Oxford researchers, as of May 13, the United States has performed statistically more tests, 9.97 million, than any single country, but not more than all countries combined.
During his speech, Trump also criticized Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s strategy for lifting stay-at-home orders and advocated for the state to reduce restrictions.
Wolf faces pushback against his phased reopening plan, which moved 37 counties into the yellow reduced-restriction phase by May 15 and has threatened to impose consequences on counties that ignore the reopening order.
“We have to get your governor of Pennsylvania to start opening up a little bit. You have areas of Pennsylvania that are barely affected, and they want to keep them closed. You can’t do that,” Trump told workers.
Trump’s statements come days after he tweeted Democratic governors were purposefully moving slowly in their reopening measures for political purposes and that Pennsylvanians “want their freedom now, and they are fully aware of what that entails.”
The POWER interfaith coalition issued a news release May 13 opposing Trump’s visit, stating “Trump’s efforts to prematurely reopen virus-stricken Pennsylvania counties devalues human life, especially those of essential workers, the elderly and those with preexisting conditions.”
Trump’s visit drew the attention of both supporters and protesters as hundreds of people gathered near Lehigh Valley International Airport, where Trump landed, and at the Owens & Minor facility. There were also rallies and caravans of people who traveled throughout the area, both in support and protestation of the visit.
Editor’s note: The White House limited media access to President Donald Trump’s arrival to Lehigh Valley International Airport and his tour of the Owens & Minor Inc. medical supply distribution center in Upper Macungie. The reporter for Lehigh Valley Press was invited to livestream Trump’s tour.