Pentagon takes aim at coronavirus with 8,000 ventilators

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The Pentagon has modified four existing contracts with defense industry partners to acquire and deliver 8,000 ventilators to various hard-hit locations around the country struggling to treat coronavirus patients. Approximately 1,400 of the ventilators are expected to arrive by early May, with the first group slated to arrive within the next several days, according to a Pentagon statement.

Numerous locations currently struggling to treat COVID-19 patients have been expressing concern that the need for ventilators is exceeding the current supply -- given the fast-growing number of COVID 19 patients experiencing respiratory distress.

The Defense Logistics Agency, with the support of Pentagon Acquisition Chief Under Secretary of Defense Ellen Lord, has adjusted an existing deal with four industry partners for approximately $84 million.  Pentagon planners describe this as a “time-phased” delivery, with the precise locations for delivery to be determined by FEMA. The Pentagon is clearly acting quickly in response to the severity of the crisis.

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A March 23 essay in “The New England Journal of Medicine,” addressing the need for ventilators to treat COVID 19 patients, explains the challenges associated with keeping patients with breathing distress alive. Without ventilation, patients can die in minutes.

“When patients’ breathing deteriorates to the point that they need a ventilator, there is typically only a limited window during which they can be saved. And when the machine is withdrawn from patients who are fully ventilator-dependent, they will usually die within minutes,” the essay states.

Citing recently compiled estimations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the essay states that Americans requiring hospitalization for COVID-19 treatment during the pandemic may reach into the millions.

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“Acute care hospitals in the United States currently have about 62,000 full-function ventilators and about 98,000 basic ventilators, with an additional 8,900 in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Strategic National Stockpile,” the essay states.