When Elon Musk sets his mind to doing something, things happen fast, such as when he promised to build the world’s largest (at that time) grid-scale storage battery in Australia in 100 days or it would be free. That system was up and running well before Musk’s self-imposed deadline.
A few days ago, Musk promised to manufacture ventilators to help cope with the coronavirus emergency, saying he had been in close contact with Medtronic, one of the major ventilator suppliers. He told CleanTechnica last Saturday that they should have 1,000 ventilators available within a week. On Wednesday, he tweeted:
Giga New York will reopen for ventilator production as soon as humanly possible. We will do anything in our power to help the citizens of New York.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 25, 2020
The factory in Buffalo was shut down on Monday because of the crisis, but manufacturing ventilators could be reason enough to get the doors open again. New York is suffering more than any other state from the COVID-19 virus, with 17,240 new cases reported just since Sunday, according to the Washington Post. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says his state is approaching the point where medical care will collapse. It is not that there are so many infections, it is that they are all happening at once.
Not only are there too few beds for those who are critically ill, but people requiring other life-saving care — including pregnant women — are unable to access health facilities that are already overburdened with coronavirus cases.
There is no word whether a collaboration with Medtronic is being planned at the Buffalo factory. According to Tech Crunch, Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak told CNBC on Wednesday that it is increasing capacity of its critical care ventilators and partnering with others such as Tesla. He said Medtronic is open sourcing one of its lower-end ventilators used in less acute situations so that other companies can make them as quickly as possible. These lower-end ventilators, which are easier to produce since they have fewer components, can be used as an intermediary step in critical care.
The shortage of ventilators is a symptom of a world that is largely unprepared to deal with any number of infections that could strike humans at any time. Elon has wondered aloud whether there will be any need for the units his company will manufacture by the time they get into production. Considering the path we are on, he need have few concerns in that regard.
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