President Trump answers questions from reporters on April 3. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump accused "wartime profiteers" of buying, hoarding and exporting medical equipment and protective gear on Friday, in a Defense Production Act directive for FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security to prevent such conduct.

The big picture: Health care workers and the federal government are scrambling to stretch limited inventories of medical equipment to fight the coronavirus crisis, as the U.S. is unlikely to be able to manufacture enough medical masks and ventilators in time for a surge in demand expected to hit in mid-April.

Flashback: "We do have a problem of hoarding. We have some healthcare workers, some hospitals, frankly — individual hospitals and hospital chains — we have them hoarding equipment, including ventilators," Trump said in a cabinet meeting with supply chain distributors on Sunday.

  • "You know, there’s a question as to hoarding of ventilators.  Some hospitals and independent hospitals — and some hospital chains, as we call them — they are holding ventilators; they don’t want to let them up.  We need them for certain areas where there’s big problems," Trump said at a White House coronavirus task force briefing on Monday.

Details: The president's memo on Friday directs the Secretary of Homeland Security and FEMA administrator to use "all authority available" under the Defense Production Act "to allocate to domestic use, as appropriate," N-95 respirators, PPE surgical masks, PPE gloves and other face respirators.

Go deeper: The well of protective gear in the U.S. is running dry

Go deeper

Updated 27 seconds ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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Ina Fried, author of Login
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