Tesla founder Elon Musk has moved from calling the coronavirus panic "dumb" to repurposing his electric vehicle and solar panel factories into assembly lines for hospital ventilators, for which there is currently a shortage across the world.
Early in March, the business leader used his Twiter account to call the coronavirus panic "dumb," leading to both negative and positive replies. Now, the story took a twist as Musk said that Tesla’s factory in New York will start producing ventilators.
New York currently has access to roughly 6,000 ventilators and if the virus keeps spreading at the current rate, the state would eventually need as many as 37,000 of them, according to estimations by Governor Andrew Cuomo. For patients suffering from the worst effects of the infection, a ventilator offers the best chance of survival. Simply put, a ventilator takes over the body's breathing process when the disease has caused the lungs to fail. This gives the patient time to fight off the infection and recover.
"New York State is the most impacted state in the nation," state assemblyman Sean Ryan wrote in a letter earlier this week, urging Musk to start making ventilators at the Buffalo plant, according to local newspaper, The Buffalo News. "It makes sense that increased ventilator production would happen here."
Reacting to the request, Musk first said Tesla’s factory will reopen to manufacture ventilators "as soon as humanly possible," adding he will do "anything in his power to help the citizens of New York". Later he also added the company is "making good progress" with the ventilators.
Tesla had already started producing ventilators in its factory Fremont, California, in collaboration with the medical supply company Medtronic. Musk is using the factory’s capacity to manufacture one of Medtronic’s lower-end ventilators, which are easier to produce in an off-site facility than more sophisticated models.
Earlier this week, Musk also donated 1,255 ventilators — which he said he’d bought from “an oversupply” in China — to hospitals in California, where Tesla is headquartered.
The business leader is also moving fast on facemasks. He sent 50.000 N95 face masks from Fremont to the home of a doctor working for the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC) in Seattle, shortly after learning that there’s a shortage of face masks in the area.
"It was just so, so fast," doctor Adams Waldorf, who received the donation, told The Seattle Times. "I feel so, so good about being a small part of these donations. To be at this critical shortage of personal protective equipment is frightening. We can’t have our health-care system crumbling at this moment."