Tesla CEO Elon Musk made good on his promise to supply ventilators to domestic hospitals, announcing on Monday that he had acquired 1,255 of the FDA-approved breathing machines from China, where the coronavirus originated.
In a Twitter post, Musk revealed that the purchase and shipment was done so quickly because of coordination between the Tesla team in China and customs officials in both countries.
“China had an oversupply, so we bought 1,255 FDA-approved Resmed, Phillips & Medtronic ventilators on Friday night & airshipped them to LA,” tweeted Musk. “If you want a free ventilator installed, please let us know!”
The ventilator donation shows a massive investment in the United States hospital system, particularly due to the cost and rarity of ventilators. Medical technology manufacturer Medtronic estimates that new ventilators can cost between $5,000 and $50,000, depending on the model.
In a press conference on Monday evening, Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) lauded Musk’s acquisition and subsequent donation as a “heroic effort,” reports Newsweek.
“Elon Musk, how about this?” said Newsom, reports the news agency. “I told you a few days ago that he was likely to have a thousand ventilators this week. They arrived in Los Angeles and [Musk] is already working with the hospital association and others to get those ventilators out in real time. It’s a heroic effort.”
While The Sacramento Bee reports that state officials have declined to disclose the number of ventilators at California hospitals, the donation represents a noticeable increase to the domestic ventilator supply.
According to The New York Times, there are approximately 160,000 ventilators in U.S. hospitals. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House coronavirus expert, told CNN last week that the country has an additional 12,700 machines in an emergency “stockpile,” but cautioned that a potential worst-case scenario could still mean shortages.
“If you don’t have enough ventilators, it’s obvious people who need it will not be able to get it. That’s when you’re going to have to make some very tough decisions,” said Dr. Fauci.
According to CNN, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) announced Monday that New York hospitals would begin experiments to determine whether ventilators could be split to serve more than one patient.
“It’s difficult to perform, it’s experimental, but at this point we have no alternative,” said Cuomo. “Picture two hospital beds, two people in bed, one ventilator between the two of them, but with two sets of tubes, two sets of pipes going to the two patients.”
“Again it’s experimental, but necessity is the mother of invention and we are working on this as we speak,” said Cuomo. “Life is options, and we don’t have any other options.”
Over the weekend, President Trump authorized Tesla, Ford and General Electric to begin manufacturing ventilators and other medical equipment. According to Reuters, the companies have stepped up to the challenge, with GE and Ford already starting to develop a simplified design.
“We’ve been in regular dialogue with federal, state and local officials to understand the areas of greatest needs,” said Jim Hackett, chief executive of Ford, reports the news agency.