Trump tours Upper Macungie medical distribution facility
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 of the visit on the White House web page, Trump discussed increasing the Strategic National Stockpile, coronavirus testing and state reopening plans.
Speaking against a backdrop of boxes of protective gowns, Trump addressed an audience of several dozen employees wearing neon-colored T-shirts, sitting at least 6 feet apart and wearing masks. Trump did not wear a mask during the tour.
He praised the workers for their dedicated effort to provide essential supplies of masks, respirators, gowns and gloves to “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 ramped up 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 also thanked company President and CEO Edward Pesicka and COO Jeff Jochims.
He also praised accompanying officials including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor, 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 they had 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 about plan to increase equipment reserves.
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, emergency supplies, including ventilators, respirators, face shields and medicine to the United States.
The President said he signed an executive order 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 which 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 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 Gov. Tom Wolf’s strategy for lifting stay-at-home orders and advocated for the state to reduce restrictions.
Wolf has faced push back against his phased reopening plan, which has moved 37 counties into the “yellow” reduced restriction phase by May 15 and has threatened to impose consequences on counties which abandon 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 came days after he tweeted that 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.”
Trump’s visit drew the attention of both supporters and protesters.
The group “Pro Trump Flag Rallies for Lehigh and Northampton County” staged a gathering and flag rally along Industrial Boulevard and Route 100 with several hundred attendees according to the event’s Facebook page.
Supporters also gathered along Schantz Road and near the Owens & Minor facility with Trump-themed vehicles, flags and banners hours before his arrival.
The community action group Make the Road Action in PA organized a protest caravan of 200 cars which traveled through Allentown to Lehigh Valley International Airport where Air Force One landed.
The protests criticized Trump’s handling of the pandemic, honored the lives of Pennsylvanians who have died from COVID-19 and called for an end to the “exclusion of immigrants, mixed status, undocumented families from stimulus benefits,” according to the group’s Facebook page.
Additionally, the POWER interfaith coalition released a news release May 13 opposing the president’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 pre-existing conditions.”
The Rev. Gregory Edwards of the Resurrected Life Community Church of Allentown said Trump’s visit was a “political stunt meant to rattle the chain of Gov. Wolf,” while Bishop Dwayne Royster, Interim Executive Director of POWER said the trip was “an attempt to undermine our rights as voters.”
“We have a strong history of democracy in this state and we won’t accept this overreach,” Royster said in the release.
Editor’s note: The White House limited media access to President Donald Trump’s arrival at Lehigh Valley Airport and his tour of the Owens & Minor Inc. medical supply distribution center in Upper Macungie Township.
The reporter for the Lehigh Valley Press was invited by the White House to livestream Trump’s tour.