The Coming Fire Sale of COVID-19 Ventilators

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Need a ventilator? The United States will have thousands of unused ones. And you will likely be able to pick them up cheap. Heck, the government may just give them away so it doesn’t have to spend millions of taxpayer dollars storing them until they deteriorate or become obsolete.
 
One of the constant themes during the last half of March and first half of April was the need for ventilators—thousands upon thousands of them to help save the lives of hard-hit COVID-19 patients.
 
Who can forget New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s March 24 emotional plea for 30,000 ventilators? “What am I going to do with 400 ventilators when I need 30,000? You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you [the federal government] only sent 400 ventilators.”
 
Only it turns out New York didn’t need 30,000, nowhere close. By April 13 a much calmer Cuomo announced, ““We are fine, so to speak, from an equipment point of view right now if the number doesn’t go up.” 
 
But constant cries that hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Americans would die without ventilators—cries that were repeatedly megaphoned by the media—put enormous pressure on the Trump administration to respond.
 
And respond it did. Reuters reports the administration is highlighting $2.9 billion to build 187,000 ventilators this year.
 
Was the country short of ventilators? An April 1 report from Johns Hopkins’s Center for Health Security cites a study that estimated U.S. hospitals already had 62,000 full-featured mechanical ventilators and another 98,000 that are not full-featured but can provide basic ventilation.
 
It also states that the Strategic National Stockpile has between 12,000 and 13,000 ventilators stored.
 
Even so, several major U.S. manufacturers, such as GM and Ford, have been redirected into making thousands more to fill the ventilator gap that no longer exists.
 
So several states, including California, Oregon and Washingtonand New York—are now loaning ventilators to other states.
 
And President Trump is lending the country’s 60,000 unused stock of ventilators to other states—or lending or selling new ventilators to other countries.
 
But that’s not the worst part of the news. Several stories have appeared asserting that COVID-19 patients put on ventilators have a very high death rate, raising the concern that ventilators may be doing more harm than good.
 
So we are making thousands upon thousands of ventilators for COVID-19 patients, many of whom may be better off without them.
 
To be fair, the Trump administration had to respond quickly, given the pressure created by the media, many epidemiologists, some pandemic modelers and the left. No politician wants to be accused of letting hundreds of thousands of Americans suffer and die.
 
But it’s increasingly clear that almost everyone was flying blind. There was a dearth of reliable data to guide policy decisions.
 
What there won’t be a dearth of is ventilators.

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