In a call to action yesterday on Twitter, Tesla CEO Elon Musk chimed in with his usual, well-meaning braggadocio: "Tesla makes cars with sophisticated HVAC systems. SpaceX makes spacecraft with life-support systems. Ventilators are not difficult, but cannot be produced instantly. Which hospitals have these shortages you speak of right now?"
In New York City, COVID-19 cases have more than doubled since Tuesday, and Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted back urgently. "New York City is buying!" he wrote, adding that the scarcity is countrywide. "We will need thousands in this city over the next few weeks. We’re getting them as fast as we can, but we could use your help!"
Musk responded with a simple "sounds good"—and said he’ll be in touch to gauge needs.
A 1,000-bed Navy ship is currently on its way to NYC, indicating how dire officials expect the new coronavirus outbreak to become. Although the state of New York declared a state of emergency two weeks ago, the city itself has yet to adopt a shelter-in-place policy to curb the spread. The ship, dispatched by President Trump, will arrive sometime in April.
Thus far, the U.S. government’s response to the virus has been sluggish, and it’s done little to accelerate the production of life-saving ventilators. President Trump told governors "try getting it yourselves," according to The New York Times. Both American and European manufacturers are already at full production capacity and are unable to meet growing demand, making the private sector the only hope for new machines.
Tesla, Ford, and General Motors are assessing how feasible it is to take on ventilator production, and whether or not it can be done in a timely way.
Amidst the Bay Area’s current lockdown, Fremont’s Tesla plant is arm wrestling with local officials just to stay open. At present, car-building plants have been categorized as "unessential" businesses, but if Musk shifts the factory toward ventilator production, local governments might whistle a different tune.
As he’s known to do, Musk could just be firing tweets from a different planet—but when he wants to shoot the moon, he does.
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