As schools reopen and cold weather heightens the likelihood of a spike in coronavirus cases, nurses and doctors fear that shortages of the respirator masks, surgical gowns and disposable gloves needed to shield them from infection will return with a vengeance.
President Trump has sweeping powers to compel companies to produce protective gear and to guarantee that the federal government will pay them for it — and as his election campaign intensifies, he has been boasting about aggressively using them. But in fact, most of his administration’s use of that authority, granted under the Cold-War Defense Production Act, has had nothing to do with the pandemic.
A White House report released last month claimed that Mr. Trump has wielded the act nearly 80 times to alleviate shortages of masks and other medical supplies.
“My administration has harnessed the full power of the Defense Production Act to achieve the greatest industrial