Late last night, Elon Musk promised a fan that Tesla “will make ventilators if there is a shortage.” Several hours later, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed that there is a national shortage, took him up on his offer, and now it’s time for Musk to pay up.
“@elonmusk New York City is buying!” he tweeted, adding: “Our country is facing a drastic shortage and we need ventilators ASAP — we will need thousands in this city over the next few weeks.” (We need ventilators ASAP because the devices are essential to keeping sufferers of severe covid-19 cases alive.) De Blasio added: “We’re reaching out to you directly.”
Hopefully Musk Rescue Mission: Part Two pays off after the prequel–sending a small submarine of questionable utility to children trapped in a cave–resulted in a fifth-grade-level Twitter rant aimed at a rescue cave diver and defamation suit. (In that case, Musk eventually emerged victorious.)
We do know that the Freemont, California Tesla factory will remain open for the time being, despite a shelter in place order. According to a Tesla HR email obtained by CNBC, Tesla has deemed its production, service, delivery, testing, and support group employees as “essential”: defying the Alameda County Sheriff’s determination one day earlier that Tesla is “not an essential business.” (Tesla stock dropped after the sheriff’s tweet.)
Musk, in typical fashion, has made his own pseudo-scientific forecast about covid-19. According to the Los Angeles Times, he recently informed employees that he believes “panic” will do more harm than good and that the virus will affect no more than 0.1 per cent of the population. This has no basis in the warnings medical professionals have been issuing for weeks, nor does it acknowledge the underlying concern that, yes, this is going to be tough on the economy, but if we collectively decide to stay home for a little bit, we can avoid totally overwhelming the healthcare system and save lives of people who will need ventilators.
The ventilator shortage isn’t an “if”; it is a fact. American and European countries are currently scrambling to obtain them. Various outlets are reporting that the UK is resorting to “wartime” measures, conscripting Dyson, Rolls-Royce, Vauxhall, and Airbus to manufacture ventilators. More government officials may call on Musk to contribute in the days ahead, but they’re unlikely to include Donald Trump, who’s told governors to “try getting it [ventilators] yourselves.”
Gizmodo has reached out to the mayor’s office on the current status of the city’s shortage and will update the post if we hear back.