Update for March 24: Musk has delivered 1,255 ventilators, which he bought from China, to California officials, according to Newsweek.
Elon Musk wants to make a big contribution to the coronavirus fight.
Last Wednesday (March 18), the SpaceX and Tesla chief offered to start manufacturing ventilators for coronavirus patients if need be. Medical practitioners and politicians urged him to do so, stressing that many hospitals around the country will have a shortage of breathing machines as the pandemic progresses.
Both SpaceX and Tesla are well suited to make ventilators, Musk said last week. After all, every Tesla car features a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, and SpaceX engineers developed a life-support system for the company’s Crew Dragon astronaut taxi, which is scheduled to launch its first crewed mission in May.
And Musk and his teams have sought advice from experts.
“Just had a long engineering discussion with Medtronic about state-of-the-art ventilators. Very impressive team!” Musk said in a tweet on Saturday (March 21). (Medtronic builds and sells a variety of medical devices.)
We expect to have over ~1200 to distribute this week. Getting them delivered, installed & operating is the harder part.March 22, 2020
Both SpaceX and Tesla are working on ventilators, Musk has said. And other companies are doing so as well. On Sunday, for example, President Donald Trump gave Ford and General Motors, along with Tesla, an official manufacturing green light.
In other tweets, Musk has said that his companies’ manufacturing efforts may not bear fruit in time to alleviate the coming shortages. But on Sunday (March 22), the billionaire entrepreneur said that he nonetheless planned start delivering lots of breathing machines very soon.
“We expect to have over ~1,200 [ventilators] to distribute this week. Getting them delivered, installed & operating is the harder part,” Musk said via Twitter on Sunday.
Musk is helping hospitals deal with the outbreak in other ways as well. Over the weekend, he told CleanTechnica that his companies will soon start distributing 250,000 N95 masks, critically needed medical respirators that help keep doctors and nurses safe during the outbreak.
Some of this protective gear has already hit the road, making its way to UCLA Health Hospital in Los Angeles and the Seattle home of a doctor at the University of Washington Medical Center who’s researching the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, which is known as COVID-19.
Musk is also offering advice about the outbreak via Twitter. For instance, he has stressed repeatedly that panic about COVID-19 could end up being worse than the disease itself.
Editor’s note: This story originally stated that the ventilators Musk planned to deliver would be manufactured by his companies. But this was an unwarranted assumption, as the machines he ended up delivering (see Update at top of story) were purchased from Chinese sources. The story was updated on March 24 to remove that assumption.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.