President Donald Trump landed in the battleground state of Pennsylvania on Thursday to tour a distribution center of medical and surgical products for health care facilities, including personal protective equipment in the fight against the coronavirus.
Trump visited Owens & Minor in Allentown. The facility distributes medical protective equipment like face masks and gowns. During the tour Trump happily remarked that a number of the wares are manufactured in the United States.
The Virginia-based company has a federal contract that is contributing to the effort to manufacture and ship personal protective gear across the country to help with the coronavirus response. The White House said the company has sent millions of N95 masks, surgical gowns and gloves to U.S. hospitals.
Air Force One touched down at Lehigh Valley International Airport at 1:34 p.m. President Trump was greeted by U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa. 1st), Scott Perry (R-Pa. 10th), Dan Meuser (R-Pa. 9th) and Fred Keller (R-Pa. 12th). All four congressmen wore face masks while the president did not.
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In remarks at the company, Trump discussed efforts to restock the Strategic National Stockpile to prepare for future pandemics by having an up to 90-day supply of materials, equipment and drugs.
"We’ll build on this system to create stockpile that's not only the best sourced in the world, but also evolved to meet new threats, things that you're not even thinking about right now. We'll continue to partner with American industry, distributors like you to help manage and rotate our vastly-expanding inventory. The final step in rebuilding stockpile is to bring critical manufacturing permanently back to America," Trump said to a socially-distanced group of workers, all wearing masks and neon T-shirts.
Owens & 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.
It is Trump's second visit to Pennsylvania this year after appearing a town hall-style event hosted by Fox News at the Scranton Cultural Center in March.
Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes are perhaps this year's premier electoral prize state after Trump’s unexpected win in Pennsylvania in 2016 helped pave his way to the White House.
Trump did particularly well in the Allentown area, a politically moderate area where Trump flipped nearby Northampton County into his win column.
The Republican president made five visits to Pennsylvania last year, including two to western Pennsylvania where he talked up the region’s booming natural gas industry.
Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 by about 44,000 votes, or less than 1 percentage point.
In backing Trump, Pennsylvania went Republican in a presidential contest for the first time since 1988 as part of the Democratic Party’s “blue wall” of industrial states that Trump flipped, along with Michigan and Wisconsin.
Hundreds of presidential supporters lined up along the 13-mile motorcade route to greet Trump as he drove from the airport to the facility. Some held up Trump 2020 flags and signs. Thousands of supporters gathered outside the facility, many in close quarters and without face masks.
Trump Supporters Rally in Allentown, Pennsylvania
A group of protesters were also expected to meet Trump. They are upset with his administration's response to the the coronavirus pandemic.
While the event is a presidential visit, Trump took shots at likely Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Biden, who lives in and spent most of his life in Delaware, was born in Scranton and has his national campaign headquarters in Philadelphia.
Trump's visit also drew ire from critics like U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa. 2nd) who characterized the it as a campaign event.
"Let’s be real, this is obviously a campaign visit to the single most important battleground state in this November’s presidential election. The reality is it should not be happening right now," Boyle, a Biden surrogate, told NBC10's Lauren Mayk in an interview before the president's visit Thursday.
"The president should be back in The White House focused on finding enough tests and developing enough tests so that we can do testing and tracing and finally get back to work," Boyle said.