“We will make ventilators if there’s a shortage,” Elon Musk said on Twitter last night. From my perspective, this is why we love Elon Musk. He cares about humanity and wants to help. If Tesla makes ventilators for hospitals, we should keep in mind just how fast Tesla moves. In less than a year, the Shanghai Gigafactory was up, running, and producing vehicles.
We will make ventilators if there is a shortage
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 19, 2020
The swift response on Twitter was that there was a shortage. In fact, “THERE IS A SHORTAGE” (in all caps like that) quickly rose to the top of Twitter’s trending topics. Many places are already facing or on the verge of facing shortages for ventilators, not to mention other things.
Here in Louisiana, several hospitals in New Orleans were recently running out of N95 masks. Jamie, an ER physician in New Orleans, wrote a post on Facebook. “My partners and I are hurting for PPE (personal protective equipment). We depend on lot’s of supplies from Asian countries and exports have been shut down. We are forced to see infected patients — your friends, uncles, brothers, mothers, grandparents — with minimal gear that barely protects us.”
In New York City, hospitals have already been facing the fact that there are not be enough ventilators. Currently, patients are sharing them, but they may soon have to make life-or-death decisions similar to the doctors in Italy. The flood of patients in critical condition has presented doctors and hospitals in Italy a devastating choice: who to save and who to let die? They decided to prioritize younger and healthier people who would have a better chance of survival.
NBC reports that New York has a potential shortage of 18,000 ventilators. Montefiore Health System is revamping its ventilator allocation policy and making tough choices. If there isn’t enough equipment, you may not get access to a ventilator if someone gets a prognosis that, no matter what, they probably won’t get better.
New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio responded to Elon on Twitter requesting for ventilators, and Elon just responded that they would get in touch with his team to get rolling.
Sounds good, we will connect with your team to understand potential needs
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 19, 2020
New York is just one location. Many, many other places are expecting to have the same problem. This is why social distancing is so important right now.
Elon’s promise to make ventilators brings hope because the world is facing a crisis — the coronavirus is being easily spread and there is no certain cure. As it spreads through our own healthcare system quickly, people facing the worst symptoms are being put into intensive care, but the capacity of these systems — for example, the available beds and ventilators — get taken up. Elon’s promise will help prevent some hospitals from making that choice: who gets to die and who gets to live.
There are other problems from our broken health care and pandemic response system.
For example: A few days ago, I found myself experiencing symptoms. I’d recently been to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) and several other places. When my fever got to 100°F, I took some Tylenol, I wrapped a scarf over my face, and I took an Uber to the ER. The hospital had very strict policies and wouldn’t let me enter at the main entrance. I had to walk to the other side where the ambulance entrance was. Security was at every entrance.
When I got there, I was seen immediately, provided a mask, and ushered into a separate area where everyone was masked and gloved up — but the masks were not N95 and there were three others there in the waiting room.
It turned out I had strep throat — I literally laughed at the doctor. However, I wasn’t even tested for COVID-19, and there wasn’t a chest X-ray even though I had trouble breathing and severe chest pain. I did have an EKG and my blood was drawn. However, once the strep test came back positive, I was given a shot in the leg (that was worse than the throat swab!), sent along, and I am now on a 2-week quarantine. Although, I am an introvert and never go anywhere except to the riverfront or Walmart, so this part is easy.
The Advocate reports that local hospitals are ready for COVID-19, but that doesn’t seem “ready” to me. Doctor Steven Grimillion, of Our Lady of the Lake (OLOL), which is the hospital I went to, said that, “We have in our hospital, and in our clinics, developed processes so that a patient who we think might have the novel coronavirus gets tested so we have a plan on how that works.” Yet, I wasn’t tested.
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