President Trump to visit Ford plant in Ypsilanti on Thursday
President Donald Trump, who's frequently weighed in on Michigan officials' handling of COVID-19, will visit the state himself on Thursday.
Trump will tour Ford Motor Co.’s Rawsonville manufacturing plant in Ypsilanti and will deliver remarks, according to a White House official. The plant has been repurposed to manufacture ventilators.
The news, which was first reported by Crain's Detroit Business, comes as the Detroit Three prepare to send thousands of autoworkers back to work on Monday, as auto production resumes in Michigan.
Trump and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer have disagreed in the past months about the government's handling of COVID-19, a virus that's been linked to 4,891 deaths in Michigan.
Whitmer, a Democrat who's being considered as a potential running mate for former Vice President Joe Biden, has criticized the federal government's response to the virus.
Trump, a Republican, tweeted on May 1 that Whitmer should "give a little" and "put out the fire" after hundreds of protesters rallied at Michigan's Capitol against restrictions imposed by the governor.
Trump last visited the state, which he won in 2016 by just 10,704 votes, on Jan. 30 when he spoke at a Dana Inc. plant in Warren.
At Thursday's event, the president is expected to discuss the collaboration between Ford and General Electric during the COVID-19 pandemic, the official added.
The Dearborn automaker announced in March that it would work with GE Healthcare to produce 50,000 ventilators in Michigan over three months at the plant in Ypsilanti.
Production began a few weeks ago and is continuing to ramp up.
Ford has a $336 million contract with the government to manufacture the ventilators, a respiratory machine that is used in the treatment of some COVID-19 patients.
General Motors Co. has signed on to build 30,000 ventilators, as well. The agreements were made under the Defense Production Act, which Trump in April instructed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to invoke.
The automakers are also producing other types of medical supplies that have been in demand as part of the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic. Ford has been producing face masks, face shields, reusable surgical gowns and respirators, for example.
In a statement, Ford said the White House asked to visit as part of the president's tour thanking businesses producing personal protective equipment.
"We’re proud to assemble more vehicles in the U.S. than any other automaker and welcome Thursday’s visit as part of Ford’s longstanding history of hosting sitting presidents and senior government leaders," the Ford statement added.
Trump resumed travel in May after a two-month break during the pandemic.
He has been visiting facilities producing personal protective equipment to thank workers, including a Honeywell factory in Arizona producing respirator masks. He also went to Pennsylvania on Thursday and toured a warehouse for Owens & Minor Inc., a medical equipment distribution company.
Critics have focused on the president not wearing masks while inside the facilities or during other public appearances, saying he’s setting a bad example.
Trump declined to wear a mask even after the White House began officially requiring staff to wear masks last week.
Ford has put in place a number of stringent health and safety protocols aimed at protecting workers and preventing the transmission of COVID-19 within its facilities.
Ford has shared its protocols with the White House, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Those protocols for anyone entering a Ford facility include undergoing a temperature check, completing a health self-certification, and donning personal protective equipment, including a face mask. A Detroit News reporter and photographer who visited the Rawsonville plant last week were required to adhere to all of those protocols.
The Michigan Democratic Party blasted Trump in a statement about the visit Sunday night.
"The truth is that Donald Trump has stumbled from crisis to crisis during this pandemic and Michigan has suffered as a result," said Lavora Barnes, the party's chairwoman. "No amount of empty words and lip service can undo the damage done by his failures.”
Staff Writers Melissa Nann Burke and Breana Noble contributed.