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White House Economist: Ventilator Supply Will Be Sufficient in Case of Fall Outbreak

Amid predictions that America is not done with the coronavirus yet, one of President Donald Trump’s advisers said the administration is ready.
More than twice as many ventilators will soon be on hand than are currently needed, Tomas Philipson, acting chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told the Washington Examiner.
In March, concerns about ventilators were at the top of the list of many governors, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who at one point said the state would need at least 30,000 ventilators — a number far in excess of what the state actually ended up needing.
In fact, a few weeks after Cuomo’s demand, New York was sharing its ventilator stockpile with other states.
Philipson said the government has partnered with the private sector to produce more ventilators, creating a federal program to both share ventilators and assure all states of a rapid response in the event on a second spike in COVID-19 cases.
According to Philipson’s worst-case scenario estimates, the peak demand for ventilators in the next month or so would necessitate about 50,000 of the machines.
But as more and more ventilators roll out of factories, the nation will have about 95,000 in hospitals and 10,000 in a national reserve, he said.
“If that’s true, you have twice as many ventilators in the country than are needed. Then you should be able to reallocate from the regions that have too many to the regions that have too little,” he told the Examiner.
What Philipson referred to as a “dynamic ventilator reserve” program encourages sharing among hospitals. Philipson said 20 hospital systems have joined.
The program is founded on a federal guarantee that any hospital that loans a ventilator to an emerging hot spot gets one back if its home region then becomes a hot spot as well.
“In financial credit markets, we guarantee loans all the time with the government,” he said.
“Here it’s sort of in a barter trade of highly needed medical supply.”
Philipson, whose expertise is in the economics of health care, said having spare ventilators makes sense for at least two reasons.
“One is a second wave in the fall, which we don’t know if it will be big or small relative to this,” he said.
“The second aspect is even if you overproduce and have too many ventilators, it will be useful for the stockpile … not necessarily for COVID but for other diseases,” Philipson said, noting that the epidemic exposed weaknesses in the supply of health care equipment to meet critical needs.
“This problem of medical supplies for COVID, I think, highlighted how under capacity we were from legacy systems under previous administrations,” he added.
Trump recently noted the administration’s success in producing ventilators.
“We’re way ahead of schedule on ventilators, as you know,” Trump said during Monday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing.
“That’s why it’s never brought up by the media. They don’t like to bring things up when we’re doing so well. GE is also working with Ford to make 50,000 ventilators in the next 100 days — more than our entire country typically produces in a very long period of time. Doing that in a matter of a few weeks and a few days,” he said.
“We have a great deal of ventilators, which people thought would be impossible about a month ago,” Trump added.
“I said from the beginning that no American who needs a ventilator would be denied a ventilator and we have kept that promise all over the United States.”

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