The Trump administration sent California 170 ventilators to help in coronavirus battle — but none of the equipment worked

President Donald Trump talks with Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, left, during a visit to a neighbourhood impacted by the Camp wildfire in Paradise, Calif. on Nov. 17, 2018. (Evan Vucci/AP) Evan Vucci/AP
  • California received 170 ventilators from the federal stockpile to help battle the coronavirus outbreak in the state.
  • However, California Governor Gavin Newsom said all of the ventilators sent to Los Angeles County were “broken.”
  • The state is sending the medical equipment to a company to repair the devices before returning them to hospitals in Los Angeles.
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As hospitals across the country lack the critical medical supplies they need to battle the coronavirus, the Trump administration has been sending ventilators to states whose health care systems are straining in the midst of the outbreak.

California, which has the third-highest number of infections in the US, finally received ventilators from the national stockpile – but none of the medical devices worked, according to California Governor Gavin Newsom.

In a press conference about his state’s efforts to curb the novel virus, Newsom on Saturday said the Department of Health and Human Services had sent 170 ventilators to Los Angeles County straight from the federal stockpile. However, officials were surprised to discover that all of the mechanical breathing devices were “broken.”

Instead of “lamenting” the issue, Gavin Newsom said he announced that officials immediately sent the medical equipment to a local company to be repaired.

“Rather than complaining about it, rather than pointing fingers about it…We got a car and a truck, we had those 170 taken to a facility,” Newsom said at a Bloom Energy facility in Sunnyvale, California.

Bloom Energy, an energy company that had been working to refurbish medical equipment in the wake of the outbreak, received the devices early Saturday morning. The company already repaired 80 ventilators and plan to refurbish an additional 120 today. According to Newsom, the broken ventilators from the Trump administration will be fixed and sent back to Los Angeles by Monday.

Ventilators, a mechanical breathing device, is critical to treating COVID-19, a respiratory illness that assails the lungs.

As the novel coronavirus sweeps the country, healthcare systems have been scrambling to get their hands on critical medical gear that have been in high demand and short supply. Hospitals have resorted to asking nurses and doctors to reuse their personal protective gear and asking local businesses and residents to donate what medical supplies they have.

“I can’t find any more equipment. It’s not a question of money,” said New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, where the number of infections have soared past 59,000. “We need the federal help and we need the federal help now.”

Although the federal government has enlisted the help of manufacturing companies like 3M and GM to boost the production of masks and ventilators, states have begun bidding against each other for the medical gear causing the market to descend into chaos.

At the onset of the pandemic, California had approximately 7,500 ventilators across its hospital systems. Since then, the state has secured 4,252 ventilators, approximately 1,000 of which needed to be refurbished before they can be used to treat COVID-19 patients, according to a press release from Gov. Newsom’s office. In the midst of the crisis, local businesses in California have re-vamped their facilities to make and repair medical supplies needed to treat COVID-19 patients.

California has reported 5,688 coronavirus infections and 121 deaths – the third-highest caseload in the US. Although the spread of infection is nowhere near that of New York, on Saturday, Newsom said that the number of coronavirus patients in California’s intensive care unit doubled overnight, LA Times reported.

The arrival of the broken ventilators came shortly after Newsome announced the Golden State was on the verge of a critical medical gear shortage. In spite of the setback, Newsome remained optimistic.

“That’s the spirit of California, that’s the spirit of this moment,” Newsom said at the press conference. “Take responsibility, take ownership, and take it upon ourselves to meet this moment head on.”