COVID-19 Update – Trump administration canceled order for 80k ventilators

The current $1.5 billion price tag equates to around $18,000 a ventilator.
A ventilator and other medical supplies (John Minchillo/Associated Press)

The joint venture between General Motors and Ventec Life Systems, which the White House had been preparing to reveal on Wednesday, would allow for the production of as many as 80,000 desperately needed ventilators, has suddenly come to a halt.

What We Know:

  • Government officials state the decision to cancel the announcement came after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said it needed more time to assess whether the estimated cost was prohibitive. That price tag was more than $1 billion.
  • Several hundred million dollars was to be paid upfront to General Motors to retool a car parts plant in Kokomo, IN, where the ventilators would be made with Ventec’s technology.
  • Despite the deal being on hold, officials have yet to rule out a new proposal as they examine a dozen other options. Longtime emergency managers at FEMA are working with military officials to sort through the competing offers and federal procurement rules while under pressure to give President Trump something to announce.
  • Many organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, which approve the use of medical devices, understand the ever developing pandemic. White House must now try and figure out how many ventilators to request and how much they should cost.
  • To put in perspective, the current $1.5 billion price tag equates to around $18,000 a ventilator. The overall cost, by comparison, is roughly equal to buying 18 F-35s, the Pentagon’s most advanced fighter jet.

The shortage of ventilators has emerged as one of the major criticisms of the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19 (coronavirus). The need to quickly equip hospitals across the country with tens of thousands more of the devices to treat those most seriously ill with the virus was not anticipated despite the Trump administration’s own projection.

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Javier Garay is Media & News SVCS Intern at UnmutedCo.

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