When President Trump declared a national emergency on Friday, as he is authorized to do under the Stafford Act, he was granted a number of powers. The president could use one of those powers to address the pressing problem of an insufficient number of ventilators available to address the needs of hospitals to care for severely ill patients under a worst case Coronavirus pandemic situation.
Breitbart News reported on Sunday that in a worst case scenario, experts believe the country will need 500,000 ventilators operating in hospitals across the country to treat patients with severe cases of the Coronavirus. The best estimates of the total stock of ventilator inventory currently available in the United States is approximately 180,000, a staggering 320,000 short of the worst case requirements.
President Trump has the authority under the Stafford Act to take action today to fix this problem by circumventing standard budgetary processes and ordering Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), the division of the Department of Health and Human Services that operates the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), to purchase 100,000 to 320,000 ventilators, spread among half a dozen American manufacturers of ventilators, for delivery at the earliest possible opportunity.
American ventilator manufacturers are ready and capable of handling increased ventilator production immediately, as Joel Pollak of Breitbart News reported last week:
American companies that manufacture ventilators are not yet ramping up production in anticipation of an influx of coronavirus patients — at least, not yet — but several told Breitbart News on Friday that they could do so quickly.
“There may be a surge in demand. It hasn’t happened yet,” said Eli Crawford, sales manager at Allied Health Care Products, Inc., in St. Louis. . .
A spokesperson for ResMed, another manufacturer, told Breitbart News: “We have seen a higher-than-average demand for ventilators in heavily affected areas such as China and South Korea. ResMed is confident it can meet current global demands.”
A GE Healthcare spokesperson said the company was preparing for anticipated demand: “GE has robust business continuity plans, and we are taking steps to increase our manufacturing capacity and output of equipment that is important in the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 patients, all while ensuring safe operations.”
Breitbart News contacted Medtronics/Covidien, another American manufacturer of ventilators, and asked about the company’s ventilator production capabilities on Monday, but has not yet received a response.
Military vendors also have additional capacity to produce ventilators, as Breitbart’s Neil Munro reported on Sunday:
The nation also has a variety of companies that make and sell ventilators, nearly all of which are for professional use by paramedics, nurses, and doctors. Roughly 14,000 ventilators are built in the United States each year. . .
However, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has also developed compact ventilators for battlefield use, including the SAVe II ventilator, which is being built by AutoMedx, a Texas-based company with a manufacturing center in Baltimore, Maryland.
“We’re getting ready to build 50,000 of these in the next 12 months,” said James Evans, the CEO of AutoMedx.
DARPA funded the development of the compact ventilators because of the 2003 SARS disease from China and the 2012 MERS disease from Saudi Arabia. Both of those diseases attacked victims’ lungs, and both were contained before they became epidemics.
On Monday, the availability of ventilators became a point of political contention after a recording of a conference call between the president and the nation’s governor’s was leaked to the New York Times, as Breitbart’s Charlie Spiering tweeted:
NYT got recording of Trump’s call to governors: “Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves … We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself.”
— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) March 16, 2020
The Trump campaign responded to the Times report with this tweet:
Incredible contrast between @NYTimes reporter tweet versus full quote
Full quote makes it clear President Trump said the federal government will help states; cut off quote makes it appear just the opposite pic.twitter.com/JimnKh5HjN
— Zach Parkinson (@AZachParkinson) March 16, 2020
Data on the current inventory of mechanical ventilators is surprisingly dated.
According to a February 14 report from John Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health cited ten year old data from 2010 that showed 168,900 ventilators in inventory: 62,000 full-featured ventilators in hospitals, 98,000 non-full-featured but basically functional ventilators in hospitals, and 8,900 in the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), which at the time was managed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Breitbart News emailed the SNS on Monday requesting an answer to a specific question on the number of ventilators currently in inventory in the strategic national stockpile.
An SNS spokesperson said that due to national security concerns, they do not release or confirm the quantities of ventilators in its inventory.
Sources tell Breitbart News that the SNS has a maximum of 20,000 ventilators in stock as of Monday, March 16. Breitbart News has been unable to confirm this number.
In an appearance on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight Friday, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, a White House Coronavirus Task Force member, dodged giving a direct answer to the question of the number of ventilators currently in inventory at the SNS:
Carlson pressed on specifics, asking, “Can you put some meat on those bones and give us a sense of how many ventilators are in place? How many are in the stockpile? How many do you think we will need?”
“That’s a good question,” Verma said. “In terms of numbers, we’re still assessing. We’re still working with hospitals to understand what their needs are. Right now though, I will tell you that we haven’t had hospitals at this point in large numbers saying we need more ventilators. But that situation could change rapidly. We’re trying to make sure that we stay in communication with hospitals, with the health care facilities so we can understand what their needs are.”
If ventilators stocks have not been increased in the decade since 2010, that would mean the country faces a shortfall of 331,100 ventilators to meet the needs of patients that will require ventilators under a worst cased Coronavirus pandemic situation.
If, as sources tell Breitbart News, the SNS has 20,000, rather than 8,900 ventilators in stock, and hospital inventories have not increased since 2010, the shortfall of ventilators to deal with a worst case crisis is still 320,000 units.
As the SNS website states:
The majority of stockpile assets are held in storage and kept as managed inventory. Maintaining a supply of medications and medical supplies for specific health threats allows the stockpile to respond with the right product when a specific disease or agent is known.
Products in the stockpile may require an Emergency Use Authorization, which is granted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The authorization allows for the emergency use of an unapproved medical product (e.g., drugs, vaccines, and devices) or unapproved use of an approved medical product to diagnose, treat, or prevent serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions for which no adequate, FDA-approved alternative is available.
If a community experiences a large-scale public health incident in which the disease or agent is unknown, the first line of support from the stockpile is to send a broad-range of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. Contents are pre-packed and configured in transport-ready containers for rapid delivery anywhere in the United States within 12 hours of the federal decision to deploy. Each package contains 50 tons of emergency medical resources.
The stockpile has medicines and supplies stored in strategically located warehouses throughout the country ready for deployment. Immediately shipping a variety of items to the affected state allows authorities to begin or sustain response efforts. All states have plans to receive and distribute these medical countermeasures quickly to local jurisdictions.
You can watch a 5 minute video provided by the SNS describing its history and current duties here:
President Trump has already stepped in to solve a bureaucratic mess to address a critical Coronavirus pandemic issue, as he did with Coronavirus testing kits, which were not being distributed effectively by the CDC.
The president intervened, and as a result of Trump’s actions, a Roche Diagnostics Coronavirus test kit was approved on Thursday. The company shipped between 400,000 to 500,000 test kits to 32 laboratories around the country between Friday and Saturday.
Since Friday, the number of Coronavirus tests that have been completed in the United States has skyrocketed from an estimated 4,384 on Monday, March 9 at 4:00 pm ET to 41,088 Monday, March 16 at 2:00 pm ET, an increase of 36,704 completed tests in one week.
About 9 percent of those completed Coronavirus tests, or 3,645, were positive, according to the COVID Tracking Project, while 87 percent, or 35,745 were negative, and 4 percent, or 1,697, are still pending.
Breitbart News’s Brandon Darby and Matthew Boyle contributed reporting for this story.