Trump's administration is just now thinking about lifting tariffs on medical supplies from overseas

The U.S. has a desperate need for more masks, ventilators and other medical supplies in order to counteract the coronavirus pandemic. Yet - on Friday, it was discovered that the federal government is still imposing Trump's tariffs on medical equipment from overseas.

The office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) said in a statement that it was inviting the public to submit “comments on possible further modifications to remove duties from additional medical care products.”

“To facilitate timely consideration of possible modifications, interested persons should submit comments as promptly as possible,” the agency said.

To top it off, the USTR said that the comment period would run until June 25. That's not good enough. We need action now.

Trump said earlier in the week that tariff relief wasn't something he was inclined to do at this point.

“There’s no reason to do that. China is paying us billions and billions of dollars in tariffs,” he said in a news conference Wednesday. “I can’t imagine Americans asking for that.”

We get that Trump wants to get tough on trade, but now is not the time to hurt imports that the medical community needs.

The tariffs certainly do bring in more money, but the money isn't coming from China. Americans for Free Trade, a group that comprises more than 160 business associations, is trying to convince Trump to get rid of the tariffs for this precise reason.

These tariffs are taxes that Americans pay,” the group said in a letter.

The whole thing is just maddening. Why is the Trump administration purposely increasing the cost of medical gear for nurses and doctors, and lifesaving equipment?

Previously economists have been crunching the numbers trying to calculate the total cost of Trump's tariffs, and some have stipulated that it was a tax on Americans in the ballpark of nearly $78 billion annually. Now, economists will have to calculate the cost in human lives should the Covid-19 outbreak become more widespread.