Report: U.S. May Not Have Enough Ventilators For Coronavirus Patients

HHS says it's not sure when the production of gloves, masks and gowns will meet demand, but that it's looking for solutions.
Posted at 9:15 PM, Mar 17, 2020

Hospitals around the country have been preparing for a significant rise in patients as the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow. But health officials say they fear there aren't enough supplies for patients.

On Tuesday, the Society of Critical Care Medicine projected that nearly 1 million U.S. coronavirus patients could need ventilators at some point during the outbreak. But the U.S. only has about 200,000 ventilators ready to use, many of which are older and may not work well for critically ill patients.

Ventilators are used for the most severe coronavirus cases, when patients experience respiratory issues and decreased oxygen levels as a result of the virus. 

When asked about the number of ventilators, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the agency had "tremendous supplies", but he would not disclose the exact number for "national security" reasons. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said the federal government had nearly 13,000 ventilators in its stockpile.

He added that whether the number of stockpiled ventilators was enough depended on when the virus slows down.

The Health and Human Services Department also says there isn't enough stockpiled protective medical equipment, like gowns, masks and gloves. It says it doesn't know when production of those items will start to meet demand, but did say it was looking for a solution.