Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced that California was lending 500 state-owned ventilators to the Strategic National Stockpile to help New York and other COVID-19 hot spots facing shortages of the desperately needed medical devices.
“We want to extend not only thoughts and prayers, but we’re also extending a hand of support with ventilators,” Newsom said during a press briefing Monday in Sacramento.
Newsom said lending the critically needed ventilators was possible because hospitals throughout California have procured thousands of devices in the last few weeks, increasing their total ventilator inventory from 7,587 to 11,036.
Given that coronavirus cases are not expected to peak until May, under current estimates, California could afford to lend the medical devices to parts of the country where they are in seriously short supply, Newsom said.
Newsom emphasized that the ventilators are being lent to the Strategic National Stockpile on the condition that they will be returned if California needs them.
“These are lent. They are not given,” Newsom said.
Still, Newsom’s announcement came on the same day that Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez and other local leaders put out a plea for used ventilators, offering a $1,000 bounty for each device. Santa Clara County has been one of the hardest hit areas in California during the coronavirus outbreak.
The governor said the state also has continued searching worldwide for additional ventilators, as well as masks and other personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and others, to increase its stockpile.
About 1,000 additional ventilators are currently being refurbished by Bloom Energy, a Silicon Valley fuel-cell company, nearly half of which could be available by Tuesday.
“For all of those reasons, and the responsibility — the moral and ethical responsibility of providing resources in real time to those most in need — that’s why we thought it appropriate to send those,” Newsom said.
Newsom’s announcement comes after Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington also announced they would donate ventilators to areas of the country in need. Brown on Saturday said 140 ventilators were being sent to New York and Inslee on Sunday said the state would return more than 400 ventilators received from the Strategic National Stockpile to help New York and other coronavirus hotspots.
One reason California can afford to spare ventilators, at least for now, is because the vast majority of Californians have heeded orders to stay at home and, when venturing outside to buy essentials or for recreation, have also maintained the recommended social distancing from others.
If Californians maintain that behavior, California should have enough ventilators to care for those in need in the state for the near future, Newsom said.
“That will give us the time, well within the next few weeks, to have enough ventilators, we believe, to meet the needs of 40 million Californians that may be vulnerable to this virus,” Newsom said.
Newsom held his press conference at the Sleep Train Arena, former home of the Sacramento Kings, which is being transformed into a 400-bed hospital to treat coronavirus patients. The facility is one of many sites the state is using to add 50,000 hospital beds to the hospital system in California to treat a surge in coronavirus patients.