A Ventilator Stockpile, With One Hitch: Thousands Do Not Work

A spokeswoman for Health and Human Services did not respond to questions about what had happened to ventilator maintenance during the lapse, but she said the agency had sped up the contract with Agiliti to make the remaining 2,109 ventilators available by April 30.

As of Wednesday morning, FEMA had sent about 7,000 ventilators to a number of states, with 4,000 directed to New York. Mr. Trump said he wanted to hold the current stockpile in reserve until it was clear where new hot spots would emerge.

Even with the federal help, states are scrambling for their own ventilators. They have flooded the few manufacturers in the country with orders, only to discover that the machines are largely made abroad, in China, Ireland, Switzerland and elsewhere.

“We’re very short,” Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut said on CNN on Monday. “We had our ventilators all set to come, and at the last moment FEMA redirected them,” he said, to “another place that they considered more urgent than Connecticut.”

Officials in Illinois say they asked for 4,000 and got 450. New Jersey sought 2,300 and got 300. New Mexico has only 370. Virginia requested 350 ventilators but has not received any. The governor of Illinois asked Vice President Mike Pence for 4,000 ventilators this week and was told the state would not need that many.

At the same time, states are trying to grab whatever else they can, converting anesthesia machines for use as ventilators and sometimes fashioning new valves on 3-D printers so that multiple patients can share the same machine. That has never been tested on a broad scale, and it carries some risks.

To manage the scarcity of ventilators in the stockpile, FEMA has begun sending a questionnaire to states seeking ventilators, asking about available resources and whether hospitals have tried converting anesthesia machines. A FEMA official said state leaders could submit requests for ventilators at any time but should not expect their delivery unless patients were at risk of dying within 72 hours without the devices.

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