SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The White House said Monday that 500 ventilators on loan from California will be shipped to Nevada, Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam as the nation faces a crush of coronavirus-related hospitalizations.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced earlier the nation's most populous state would share some of its ventilators, a necessary tool to keep struggling patients breathing, with the national stockpile even as it hunts for more of its own supplies. Newsom suggested that New York may be one of the states to receive the ventilators, but he said the federal government was best poised to decide where they were needed most.
“We’re very proud to be able to extend a hand of support with those 500 ventilators and send them back east,” Newsom said during a news conference. But he said the state is “not naive" to its own needs.
“We need to continue to procure more ventilators,” he said.
Vice President Mike Pence praised California as he announced where the ventilators would be sent during a briefing at the White House.
“The state of California has provided extraordinary and compassionate leadership for their citizens,” Pence said Monday. “They are making progress. As the governor said the other day, they are not out of the woods yet but the numbers speak for themselves and the generosity of the people of California and the governor is gratefully received.”
Newsom's decision follows Oregon and Washington committing to transfer ventilators to New York. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the state will return more than 400 ventilators of the 500 it got from the federal government. Inslee, a Democrat, said his statewide stay-at-home order and weeks of social distancing led to slower rates of infections and deaths in Washington, which saw the first serious coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, meanwhile, said 140 ventilators would be sent from her state to New York because Oregon doesn't need them right now.
California has been hunting for ventilators to boost its own supply for weeks. Officials requested 10,000 ventilators from the national stockpile, though it has received none. Los Angeles got 170 ventilators from the stockpile, though many were broken. The state has roughly 4,200 ventilators in addition to the hospitals' tally. California expects to hit its peak of cases in mid-May.
Hydrogen fuel cell manufacturer Bloom Energy has dedicated a portion of its production plants in California and Delaware to repairing old ventilators. As of Monday the San Jose-based company had repaired 1,000 ventilators, and a spokeswoman said it has the capacity to refurbish 2,000 per week.
Virgin Orbit, billionaire Richard Branson’s company that makes rockets, has developed a prototype for a “bridge ventilator” designed to help patients breathe until they can be put on a traditional ventilator. The company is awaiting federal approval before it can begin mass producing the model, which was developed in partnership with researchers at the University of California, Irvine.
While the federal government hasn't given California any ventilators from the national stockpile, it has sent other supplies. As of last week, California had received roughly 837,000 N-95 masks, 1.31 million gloves, nearly 2 million surgical masks, as well as face shields, surgical gowns, coveralls and 2,000 medical station beds, according to the White House.
California has recorded more than 15,000 cases of COVID-19 virus infections and at least 320 deaths, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Maryland has more than 4,000 cases; Nevada nearly 2,000; the District of Columbia nearly 1,100; and Delaware less than 1,000, according to the university.
“If we need them back in a few weeks, we'll get them back,” Newsom said of the ventilators the state is sharing. If Californians continue aggressive social and physical distancing, it will give the state time to obtain all of the ventilators it needs, he said.
“We looked at our modeling, we looked at conditions on the ground, and we feel confident about our capacity to meet our needs, as we support the needs of others,” he said. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Associated Press reporter Adam Beam contributed to this report.