ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — President Donald Trump says the coronavirus pandemic highlights the importance of U.S. manufacturing and moving supply chains out of China, a rival he blames for not doing enough to slow the spread.
“These stupid supply chains that are all over the world — we have a supply chain where they’re made in all different parts of the world,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo that aired Thursday. “And one little piece of the world goes bad, and the whole thing is messed up.”
“We should have them all in the United States,” he said.
Hours later, Trump arrived in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on a campaign-like visit to highlight a U.S. medical equipment distributor that is helping make and ship gowns, gloves and other personal protective gear across the country to help with the coronavirus response.
Trump did not wear a face covering as he stepped off Air Force One. During the flight, chief of staff Mark Meadows wore a navy blue face mask embossed with the presidential seal in gold. Officials wipe down the handrails on the staircase before Trump arrived.
Scores of people lined the motorcade route, and the crowd grew thicker — with many of them barefaced — and began to chant “USA” and “four more years” as Trump arrived at Owens and Minor Inc.
After a tour, he spoke to an audience of several dozen employees in matching neon yellow company T-shirts, all wearing face masks and sitting with appropriate distancing between them.
It is Trump's second trip in as many weeks as he tries to convince the American public that it’s time for states to begin to reopen, even as the virus continues to spread.
The White House says Owens and Minor has sent millions of N95 masks, surgical gowns and gloves to U.S. hospitals.
While health safety precautions around the president have increased in recent days, Trump has yet to be seen in public wearing a mask. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Americans should wear cloth face coverings in public in situations where social distancing is difficult to prevent unknowingly spreading the virus. Trump is tested daily for the virus; the White House says he is negative.
In remarks at the company, Trump intended to discuss efforts to restock the Strategic National Stockpile to prepare for future pandemics by having up to 90 days' worth of materials, equipment and drugs, according to the White House.
Owens and Minor says it has put in place new procedures because of the virus, including restricting visitors to its distribution and manufacturing facilities and requiring employees to wear personal protective equipment and undergo temperature checks.
The state has set masking and social distancing requirements for all businesses that are allowed to operate.
Gov. Tom Wolf, D-Pa., is under increasing pressure to roll back coronavirus restrictions after effectively containing the state’s outbreak early on, battling a Republican revolt over his stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns. Counties have threatened to defy his orders while at least a few business owners have reopened their doors despite his warnings.
Trump won Pennsylvania by a mere 44,000 votes four years ago. But in a backlash against him, in 2018, the area voted for a Democrat to represent it in Congress for the first time in two decades.
Allentown is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) from Scranton, where presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was born. The former vice president's campaign has become increasingly hopeful of returning Pennsylvania to the Democratic column, where it had been from 1992 until 2016.
Pennsylvania is 10th among states in overall infection rate, with some 59,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, or roughly 450 per 100,000 residents, and nearly 4,000 deaths, according to federal statistics.
New infections have been trending down, though, and Wolf has been easing restrictions in lightly affected counties, but not fast enough for some.
Trump weighed in on the intensifying political fight Monday by tweeting: “The great people of Pennsylvania want their freedom now, and they are fully aware of what that entails.”
Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Darlene Superville in Washington, Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pa., and Jonathan Lemire in New York contributed to this report.