Elon Musk on Wednesday night said he will “make ventilators if there is a shortage” due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The statement came in response to a tweet asking Musk to repurpose the Tesla factory in Fremont to manufacture the machines, which are vital to the treatment of patients critically ill with the deadly respiratory disease.
Nate Silver, editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight, jumped into the exchange and noted a shortage already exists. He asked the Tesla and SpaceX leader how many he planned to produce.
“Tesla makes cars with sophisticated HVAC systems. SpaceX makes spacecraft with life-support systems,” Musk replied. “Ventilators are not difficult, but cannot be produced instantly.”
Musk then asked Silver which hospitals have shortages.
Tesla makes cars with sophisticated hvac systems. SpaceX makes spacecraft with life support systems. Ventilators are not difficult, but cannot be produced instantly. Which hospitals have these shortages you speak of right now?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 19, 2020
Hospitals in the United States have about 162,000 ventilators and there are 12,700 in a cache of emergency medical supplies maintained by the federal government, but that probably won’t be enough if cases continue to climb, the New York Times reported Wednesday.
According to the Times, the devices can cost as much as $50,000.
Musk previously has been dismissive about the threat posed by the spread of the disease, tweeting last week that “The coronavirus panic is dumb.”
Late Monday, Musk tweeted a link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website that updates the latest figures for coronavirus cases in the United States, adding: “danger of panic still far exceeds danger of corona imo. If we over-allocate medical resources to corona, it will come at expense of treating other illnesses.”
Staff writers Rex Crum and David DeBolt contributed to this report.
Coronavirus: Elon Musk vows to ‘make ventilators if there is a shortage’