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The global coronavirus outbreak has pushed the U.S. health system to the brink. Hospitals are already running out of basic supplies like masks, eye gear, gowns and ventilators. Ventilators are key in helping keep people with the most severe cases of COVID-19 alive, but with the number of infected rising daily, there are not nearly enough of them and no easy way to get more. Here is a look at what governments are doing and how automakers like Ford, GM and Tesla are trying to help.

CORRECTION (March 27, 2020): At 2:34 and 6:45 we misidentified Dr. Bon Ku, Emergency Medicine Physician and Director of the Health Design Lab at Thomas Jefferson University.

Across the United States, hospitals are facing shortages of ventilators and that could mean the difference between life and death for many patients with COVID-19.

Medical device makers, including Philips and Medtronic, have agreed to ramp up supplies as quickly as possible. But because patients diagnosed with or suspected to have COVID-19 often require breathing support, there’s widespread concern that these devices won’t be developed and shipped quickly enough. 

Ventilators deliver air to the lungs through a pump that is placed in the windpipe. With supplies running low, anesthesia departments, veterinarians and even zoos are offering ventilators to hospitals. But until more of these machines can be produced, some health experts fear that doctors will be forced to ration care, meaning deciding who may live or die. 

“We know from studies out of China, for example, that about 17 percent or so coronavirus patients actually require a ventilator,” said Dr. Chethan Sathya, a pediatric surgeon at Northwell Health. “So we’re not talking about, you know, a large capacity. But when you look at the number of people that are going to be infected by coronavirus, that translates to many, many people. That’s why we’re worried about this.”

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Can Tesla, GM And Ford Help Solve The Coronavirus Ventilator Shortage?

 

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