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In Italy, the dire lack of ventilators to treat COVID-19 cases leaves doctors having to decide which patient gets a ventilator and which patient will die of respiratory failure.

If nothing is done about ventilators here, we are on track to suffer the same fate.

U.S. hospitals have only 62,000 ventilators available plus 98,000 obsolete ones in storage, according to Slate online magazine.

Together with the 13,000 that the CDC has, our ventilators fall far short of the 960,000 that the American Hospital Association estimates we will need — 785,000 short. (

This is a national health crisis, and action must be taken immediately. 

Overworked and understaffed hospitals and even individual states cannot meet this crisis. The federal government must take steps to avert the impending tragedy.

What can be done?

1. The federal government could immediately buy 50,000 ventilator units.

2. It could offer tax credits to help manufacturers increase the capacity of existing supplies. And most importantly, large orders must be placed now so manufacturers will increase production.

3. The government should begin production on a large scale of the low-cost breathing units developed by Harvard Medical School and MIT which can be produced at 10% of the cost of ICU ventilators. The FDA should grant Emergency Use Authorization for effective and low-cost units to treat COVID-19 patients.

4. One U.S. manufacturer of ventilators, Res-Med, is sending massive orders to China and Korea. Why? Because they don’t have orders for ventilators from the U.S. That must change.

Other countries’ governments?

• Italy is using its military to boost production of ventilators.

• Germany has ordered 10,000 mechanical ventilators.

• England has engaged Rolls Royce to manufacture ventilators.

Our government must take action now. Only the federal government can respond decisively enough to prevent the disastrous shortage of ventilators facing our country.

Pat C. Pickett

Mount Vernon

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