Inslee, they added, also alluded to the Defense Production Act and said Washington state needs businesses to be more than encouraged to produce items such as masks and ventilators — they need a federal mandate to force them to act. He said the Pentagon needed to make immediate moves to prod defense companies to provide materials. And he spoke with urgency about the situation in nursing homes. A nursing home in Kirkland, Wash., has been associated with at least 37 deaths from the coronavirus.
Trump was defensive of his efforts, two of the people said, and told Inslee that he and the federal government have already done much for Washington and other states in recent days, ticking off several initiatives.
A spokesman for Inslee declined to comment. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Speaking to reporters in Washington after the call, Inslee said of the discussion with Trump, “I am not going to go into great detail, but I will say that I told them that the states should not be competing against each other. We are grateful for their assistance in what they have provided so far.”
The exchange was the latest flash point as tensions rise between Trump and some local officials over his leadership during the coronavirus outbreak, as some states see a spiraling numbers of cases and deaths during the pandemic.
Earlier this month, Trump called Inslee a “snake.”
“I told [Vice President Pence] not to be complimentary of the governor because that governor is a snake,” Trump said of Inslee. “And if you’re nice to him, he will take advantage.”
Inslee was not the only governor to sound the alarm, according to one person briefed on the call, with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) raising a range of issues as New Orleans and his state brace for turmoil, with the number of cases and deaths there rising. A senior administration official said Trump told Edwards during the call that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was granting his emergency request.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) spoke first for the governors on the call as head of the National Governors Association. He made a plea for Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., to get their own testing facility since the region is home to much of the workforce that keeps the federal government running, according to people familiar with the call. A White House official said that was in the works.
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) voiced objection to the federal relief package that treats the District as a territory, the people familiar said. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), a physician, asked Deborah Birx, who is a leader of the administration’s response, for her best- and worst-case scenarios. She said she was still looking at modeling, people familiar with the call said.
The personal protective equipment shortage for health-care workers was the biggest concern expressed by governors, who said they believed the country needed a federal response so states are not competing for medical supplies — a running theme of the discussion, according to the people on it and briefed on it.
Other moments of note included when Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia (R) voiced concern about an outbreak at a nursing home, the people familiar said. Meanwhile, Gov. Henry McMaster (R-S.C.), a Trump ally, told the president that small businesses cannot sustain too much more of the economic shutdown, aides familiar with the call said.
And Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) told the president he appreciated him realizing that some states have worse situations than others and that parts of the country could reopen, people familiar with the call said.
Trump referred to the situation as “crazy” and said that the country has got to get back open for business, the people familiar said.
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), the last governor to speak, asked the president to work with governors, saying that as administrators of their states, they are “not political,” according to a person familiar with the call. Trump appeared to like Cuomo’s comments and thanked him.
Cuomo has been critical of the administration’s response but has also gone out of his way not to antagonize Trump as he seeks to secure as much federal help for his state as possible.
Earlier on Thursday, Trump sent a letter to the country’s governors advising them that his administration is developing “new guidelines” that can be used at the state and local level for determining the type of social distancing measures to be put in place amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The guidelines will categorize each county in the country as low-risk, medium-risk or high-risk, Trump said.
In the letter, he said Americans are “hoping the day will soon arrive” when they can return to their normal lives.
“In furtherance of this shared goal, my Administration is working to publish new guidelines for State and local policymakers to use in making decisions about maintaining, increasing, or relaxing social distancing and other mitigation measures they have put in place,” Trump wrote.
The letter comes as public health officials have warned that prematurely reopening the country’s economy could exacerbate the spread of the virus. Trump has said that he would like to see the economy restarted by Easter, April 12.
Ovetta Wiggins, Seung Min Kim and Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.