Elon Musk Asked to Help With Ventilator Shortage After Tesla CEO Says Equipment is 'Not Difficult' to Produce

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter today that some of his company's resources could be used to make new ventilators to treat COVID-19 "if there is a shortage."

Governments and health officials have appealed to manufacturers to help produce the breathing-aid machines for hospitals. They are needed to treat patients with severe symptoms of the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but experts warn they are in limited supply.

Musk responded on social media today after receiving requests urging him to shift his factory production from electric cars to the sought-after medical equipment.

"We will make ventilators if there is a shortage," he wrote back, indicating that components used in his company's electric cars and rockets were similar in design.

"Tesla makes cars with sophisticated hvac [air conditioning] systems," Musk later said in response to a comment on Twitter made by Nate Silver, the editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight, who noted there is already a shortage.

Musk added: "SpaceX makes spacecraft with life support systems. Ventilators are not difficult, but cannot be produced instantly. Which hospitals have these shortages you speak of right now?" Many Twitter users quickly pointed out examples of hospitals in urgent need of ventilator equipment.

Tesla has been contacted for comment.

The Tesla boss has previously played down the global response to the novel coronavirus, which has caused more than 218,000 infections across the world, and over 8,800 deaths. More than 84,000 people have recovered after contracting the disease, according to tracking data.

Musk tweeted "the coronavirus panic is dumb" and "fear is the mind-killer." Today, he added: "My guess is that the panic will cause more harm than the virus, if that hasn't happened already."

Tesla makes cars with sophisticated hvac systems. SpaceX makes spacecraft with life support systems. Ventilators are not difficult, but cannot be produced instantly. Which hospitals have these shortages you speak of right now?

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 19, 2020

Yesterday, Buzzfeed News reported Tesla's factory in Fremont, California, would remain open and continue manufacturing, albeit at much reduced capacity, during a lockdown in the region.

There are an estimated 160,000 ventilators in U.S. hospitals, and about 12,700 more in a cache that is maintained by the federal government for emergencies, The New York Times reported this week. If hospital admittance numbers continue to rise, experts fear supplies would quickly be used up.

President Trump told a group of state governors on Monday that they should not wait for federal aid when it comes to ventilators—but should first attempt to solve the problem in-house.

"Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment—try getting it yourselves," the president said during a conference call that was later obtained by The New York Times. "We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself."

In the U.K., the government issued a call for businesses who can supply ventilators and ventilator components to the National Health Service (NHS) as part of its response to COVID-19.

"We start with around 5,000 ventilators, we think we need many times more than that," the health secretary, Matt Hancock, told Sky News. "We are saying if you produce a ventilator then we will buy it. No number is too high. We have been working with companies to buy ventilators that are available but also to switch over production to ventilators—and other critical equipment."

In 2018, Musk directed staff from SpaceX and The Boring Company to create a mini submarine that could help rescue young boys who were trapped in a cave in Thailand. The device was rejected by British rescuer Vernon Unsworth, who told CNN that it had been a "PR stunt."

Musk responded at the time by describing cave diver as "pedo guy," a verbal attack that resulted in him being sued for alleged defamation. Musk eventually won the trial in December last year.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • If you feel unwell (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and call local health authorities in advance.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks.
  • Clean hands after disposing of mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
Elon Musk
Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, speaks during the Satellite 2020 at the Washington Convention CenterMarch 9, 2020, in Washington, DC. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty