Elon Musk: 1000 Ventilators Next Week, + 250,000 N95 masks for hospitals tomorrow

  • Published on March 24th, 2020

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an American oncologist and bioethicist who is senior fellow at the Center for American Progress as well as Vice Provost for Global Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, said on MSNBC on Friday, March 20, that Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told him it would probably take 8–10 weeks to get ventilator production started at his factories (he’s working on this at Tesla and SpaceX).

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I reached out to Musk for clarification on that topic and he replied that, “We have 250k N95 masks. Aiming to start distributing those to hospitals tomorrow night. Should have over 1000 ventilators by next week.”

With medical supplies such as these being one of the biggest bottlenecks and challenges at the moment in the COVID-19 response in the United States (as well as elsewhere) — something that is already having a very real effect on medical professionals and patient care — the support will surely be received with much gratitude. That said, while there has been much attention put on the expected future need for ventilators, very few places reportedly have a shortage of them right now. In much greater need at the moment are simpler supplies like N95 masks, which must be why Tesla/SpaceX is providing 250,000 of them.

Dr. Emanuel also said in the segment of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” he was on that we probably need 8–12 weeks (2–3 months) of social distancing in the US in order to deal with COVID-19 as a society. However, he also expects that the virus will come back and we’ll basically have a roller coaster of “social restrictions, easing up, social restrictions, easing up … to try to smooth out the demand on the health care system.”

It is unclear how things will actually proceed in the United States. Some states have avoided implementing any public policies in response to the pandemic, and there aren’t yet many firm recommendations or policies coming from the White House. Some states are shutting everything down, while others are leaving everything open.

Furthermore, the economic impact we are gliding into is unprecedented. I expect a large stimulus package to be passed by Congress soon, but there has been an unacceptable delay moving this package out the door, which has been making tens of millions of people nervous about paying their bills. One executive in the hospitality industry estimated last week that 1 million hospitality workers had lost their jobs in one day. There is a big question mark about whether or not Congress is going to go “big enough” on the stimulus package.

Even if it is big enough for this month, the completely uncharted territory we seem to be entering holds a large question mark about what might be needed beyond March and April. If we will indeed have another 8–12 weeks of near lockdown followed by cycles of varying levels of social restrictions (something that is simply a common proposal from medical professionals right now), that is like nothing the United States has ever gone through. There are almost no models even exploring what happens in such a situation.

This overall societal problem is what is technically termed a “wicked problem” in city planning. There are so many effects and side effects to every decision that there is no clear path forward that is absolutely, definitely best. Furthermore, the “problem” is constantly changing, or evolving. In a narrow sense, it is clear that self-isolation and shutting everything down early has worked best in this pandemic. Korea seemed to nail it. Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong followed a similar course.

However, that doesn’t necessarily explain how we should deal with this in the long term (if the problem doesn’t disappear like a “miracle” someday).

Francois Balloux is “a computational/system biologist working on infectious diseases and [has] spent five years in a world class ‘pandemic response modelling’ unit.” He’s the director of the UCL Genetics Institute. He published a 12-tweet thread about his experience and conclusions from that intensive pandemic response modelling — “what I believe I (don’t) know.” He concluded that thread with this tweet:

One thing to remember is that we are architects of our own destiny. We create positivity with positivity, and we create fear with fear. We are — every single day — creating our future and influencing the future of the world. In times of disruption and change, we are more likely to break out of habits or complacency and make more dramatic turns in one direction or another. If we focus on positive, evolutionary, uplifting actions, attitudes, and agendas, we are more likely to create a better world than the one that preceded this pandemic.

Yes, I just dropped a Justin Bieber video in here. It features a few uplifting stories that will perhaps help you at this time.

Have a nice day. Spread love, not fear.

(Originally appeared at our sister-site, Cleantechnica.)

About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.
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