Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said his company’s New York factory will open “as soon as humanly possible” to produce ventilators that can help treat severe cases of COVID-19.
Musk, who announced the move on Twitter, said that his staff would “do anything in our power to help the citizens of New York” during the outbreak of novel coronavirus that has resulted in a “pause” of all non-essential services. There have been over 30,000 positive cases confirmed in the state.
COVID-19 is a new illness without a cure that affects the lungs and airways. Officials have warned that ventilators, needed to help patients breathe, remain in short supply.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said yesterday his state needs at least 30,000 ventilators to manage the number of patients projected to seek medical help as infections peak.
Earlier this week, it was reported the state had about 3,000 to 4,000 ventilators on hand. Gov. Cuomo said that 7,000 more ventilators had been procured and the government had sent about 400, but it was not enough.
Broadly, it is estimated that hospitals in the U.S. have about 160,000 ventilators, while there are about 12,700 more in a federal stockpile.
Musk did not say when the factory would re-open or if New York ventilator production would be part of its work with Medtronic, an Ireland-based healthcare company that serves the U.S. market.
Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak told CNBC yesterday its own capacity was steadily rising and said a lower-end ventilator—a more generic version used for initial treatments—would now be made open source so others could replicate the design. Higher-grade ventilators are needed for severe cases.
“We do make these critical care ventilators which are in very high demand. We are also opening up with other partners who have come forward, Tesla is one that I think people have heard about. One of our ventilators will be made by them and they are fast on track,” Ishrak said.
Musk tweeted yesterday that Tesla’s collaboration with Medtronic was “making good progress” and pledged that his company would now “do whatever is needed to help in these difficult times.”
Tesla announced this month the New York factory would temporarily suspend production “except for those parts and supplies necessary for service, infrastructure and critical supply chains.”
Its Fremont factory also halted work but the company said some basic operations would continue in order to support its “vehicle and energy service operations and charging infrastructure.”
Musk has sent more than 1,200 ventilators to California after buying them from an “oversupply” in China. Gov. Gavin Newsom described the delivery as a heroic effort. Tesla also sent approximately 50,000 face masks to medical experts at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
Multiple carmakers, including General Motors, Ford and Fiat, have all recently announced plans to turn their attention to the production of medical gear, but timescales for deliveries remain murky.
The Associated Press has reported that most company manufacturing is likely to take months. In the past week, technology companies have started to ship mask stockpiles to U.S. states in need.
Any New York citizen who requires mental health guidance or advice during the novel coronavirus outbreak can call the COVID-19 Emotional Support Hotline at 1-844-863-9314 for counseling.