California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Saturday that the federal government had sent the state “170 broken ventilators” amid national concerns about a shortage of the life-saving machines, which can be key to treating the respiratory distress caused by COVID-19.
Newsom said at a press conference that “170 ventilators that came from the national stockpile directly” to Los Angeles county were “not working.” But, he added, “rather than pointing fingers,” authorities in California transported the ventilators to a facility to get them fixed by San Jose-based Bloom Energy.
Newsom said the broken ventilators arrived at the facility on Saturday morning and he expects the ventilators will be functioning and back in Los Angeles on Monday. “That’s the spirit of California,” Newsom said.
On Saturday, Newsom toured the Bloom Energy ventilator refurbishing site in Sunnyvale, according to a Saturday press release from the governor’s office. Bloom Energy has partnered with the state to transform its production facility to “quickly refurbish life-saving ventilators to provide California with the critical equipment it needs to prepare for a potential surge in COVID-19 patients.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, California had about 7,500 ventilators across the state’s hospital systems and aimed to get another 10,000 ventilators, according to the press release. “To date, the state has added 4,252 ventilators, approximately 1,000 of which needed to be refurbished,” it said.
There are no good substitutes for ventilators, which are key to dealing with a virus that aggressively attacks the lungs. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, previously told TIME that he believes the U.S. has only a “fraction” of the ventilators that could be needed to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
President Donald Trump used the Defense Production Act to order General Motors to produce ventilators for coronavirus patients in an order issued Friday.
Several governors across the country, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have been pleading with the federal government for more equipment, including ventilators, to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
New York and California are among the hardest hit states in the U.S. The U.S. has more than 124,000 COVID-19 cases and California trails behind only New York and New Jersey in the number of cases it has so far reported, according to a tracker from researchers at Johns Hopkins University. As of Sunday morning, New York has reported about 53,500 cases and California reported about 5,600 cases.