The Pentagon has deployed many of its 2,000 ventilators amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said.
Many of the ventilators have been deployed with USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy, military hospital ships that were sent to Los Angeles and New York City.
Others are deployed with the field hospitals the military has been erecting in various states, including Texas, Louisiana, and New York.
Several hundred have been prepositioned outside of New York and others are ready to be shipped to where officials are told to ship them to, Esper said on Sunday.
Esper said a report from CNN claiming the Pentagon had not shipped any of its ventilators was not accurate. Only a few hundred have not been sent out, he said.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which still has several thousand ventilators in stock right now, is slated to deliver those before the military sends out the ones it still has, according to Esper.
“We’re sitting on them in the sense that they’re prepared to ship once they’re needed, once HHS exhausts its stock,” he said.
Esper spoke about the ventilators during appearances on ABC’s “This Week” and CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Ventilators have become a crucial issue because patients with severe cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, require assistance breathing. Patients with the disease stay much longer on ventilators than non-COVID patients and around 80 percent of patients with the new illness who require help breathing die, a top New York health executive Gov. Andrew Cuomo said over the weekend.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has estimated his state will need as many as 40,000 ventilators. A major model relied upon by the governor and federal officials was revised overnight and now says the state will need no more than 10,606.
Cuomo’s office hasn’t responded to requests for information about ventilators, including how many the state has on hand. According to information given at press conferences, the state has north of 12,500, with over 1,000 more on the way, even after an order for 17,000 fell through.
It wasn’t clear if that figure included those ready for deployment by the Pentagon.
“We have sufficient ventilators for the foreseeable future, and we’re obviously getting more supply,” Michael Dowling, the president and CEO of Northwell Health, the largest healthcare provider in New York state, said during an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Healthcare workers are not at the point of deciding who gets a ventilator and who does not, a point that would only be reached amid shortages.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said on the same show that he thinks the New York City health system will be “brought right to the brink” but not “go over.”
“They’re expanding their capacity to keep pace with their surge of demand, really a historic effort. And I don’t think they’re gonna run out of ventilators. They’re doing things to convert existing devices into ventilators. And I think they’ll keep pace with it,” he said.
State officials have ordered anesthesia machines to be used as ventilators, the conversion of BiPAPs, and a “splitting” technique that lets a single ventilator serve two patients. Cuomo signed an executive order in recent days allowing the state to seize ventilators from hospitals they say don’t need them. Hospital executives were asked how many they aren’t using and National Guard troops are taking 20 percent of that number from each hospital outside New York City and its environs, Cuomo told reporters at a press conference.
With a slowdown of new cases, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown sent 140 ventilators to New York to help boost capacity. Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee sent 400 ventilators to the Strategic National Stockpile because of the low numbers of cases there after an early explosion in February.
“Washington is returning 400 ventilators so states like New York and others can have them,” Inslee said in a statement.
Those machines will be sent to “the point of the need,” Vice President Mike Pence told reporters on Sunday.