California lends 500 ventilators to four states, two territories

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA (AP) — The White House said on Monday 500 ventilators on loan from California will be shipped to Nevada, Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam as the United States (US) faces a crush of coronavirus-related hospitalisations.

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced earlier the nation’s most populous state would share some of its ventilators, a necessary tool to keep struggling patients breathing, with the national stockpile even as it hunts for more of its own supplies. Newsom suggested that New York may be one of the states to receive the ventilators, but he said the federal government was best poised to decide where they were needed most.

“We’re very proud to be able to extend a hand of support with those 500 ventilators and send them back east,” Newsom said during a news conference. But he said the state is “not naive” to its own needs.

“We need to continue to procure more ventilators,” he said.

Vice President Mike Pence praised California as he announced where the ventilators would be sent during a briefing at the White House.

An employee at a ventilator refurbishing assembly line at Bloom Energy campus in Sunnyvale, California. PHOTO: AP

“The state of California has provided extraordinary and compassionate leadership for their citizens,” Pence said. “They are making progress. As the governor said the other day, they are not out of the woods yet but the numbers speak for themselves and the generosity of the people of California and the governor is gratefully received.”

Newsom’s decision follows Oregon and Washington committing to transfer ventilators to New York. Washington Governor Jay Inslee said the state will return more than 400 ventilators of the 500 it got from the federal government. Inslee, a Democrat, said his statewide stay-at-home order and weeks of social distancing led to slower rates of infections and deaths in Washington, which saw the first serious coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown, meanwhile, said 140 ventilators would be sent from her state to New York because Oregon does not need them right now.

California has been hunting for ventilators to boost its own supply for weeks. Officials requested 10,000 ventilators from the national stockpile, though it received none. Los Angeles got 170 ventilators from the stockpile, though many were broken. The state has roughly 4,200 ventilators in addition to the hospitals’ tally. California expects to hit its peak of cases in mid-May.

Hydrogen fuel cell manufacturer Bloom Energy dedicated a portion of its production plants in California and Delaware to repairing old ventilators. As of Monday the San Jose-based company repaired 1,000 ventilators, and a spokeswoman said it has the capacity to refurbish 2,000 per week.

Virgin Orbit, billionaire Richard Branson’s company that makes rockets, has developed a prototype for a “bridge ventilator” designed to help patients breathe until they can be put on a traditional ventilator. The company is awaiting federal approval before it can begin mass producing the model, which was developed in partnership with researchers at the University of California, Irvine.

While the federal government hasn’t given California any ventilators from the national stockpile, it has sent other supplies.

As of last week, California received roughly 837,000 N-95 masks, 1.31 million gloves, nearly two million surgical masks, as well as face shields, surgical gowns, coveralls and 2,000 medical station beds, according to the White House.