A General Motors and Ventec Life Systems team member transports the final VOCSN V+Pro critical care ventilators for testing to complete the 30,000 unit order for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Saturday, August 29, 2020 - to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic - at the General Motors manufacturing facility in Kokomo, Indiana. The final ventilator was shipped Monday, August 31, 2020. The full federal order was completed in just 154 days, with one ventilator completed about every seven minutes. (Photo by AJ Mast for General Motors and Ventec)

GM responded when hope was in short supply. However, ventilator usage has dropped.

According to the COVID Tracking Project, about 2,100 patients critically ill in the United States with COVID right now are reported to be on ventilators. This number is less than a fraction of what government officials feared might be the case when COVID was increasing rapidly in March, April, and May. Thankfully, the ventilators that General Motors built are not presently needed. But they were.

A General Motors and Ventec Life Systems team member loads the last VOCSN V+Pro critical care ventilators for delivery to complete the 30,000 unit order for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic – Monday, August 31, 2020 at the General Motors manufacturing facility in Kokomo, Indiana. The final ventilator was shipped today. The full federal order was completed in just 154 days, with one ventilator completed about every seven minutes. (Photo by AJ Mast for General Motors and Ventec)

Jeffrey Dickerson of Chicago was one of those who benefited from the GM-Ventech collaboration. “I’m grateful that Weiss Memorial Hospital received ventilators created by Ventec Life Systems and General Motors,” he said. “When I was rushed into the hospital room, I couldn’t walk without pausing to catch my breath. The team at Weiss put me on one of your machines, and I was fortunate to make a fast recovery. They later told me they were running out of ventilators, but fortunately had received one of the first shipments from the federal government, so I didn’t have to wait for help.”

In late March, New York’s governor Cuomo was frantically trying to obtain 30,000 ventilators assuming the surge in cases at that time would require them. When the federal government promised an additional 400 ventilators to augment the thousands that New York already had, Cuomo was quoted by CNBC as saying, “Four hundred ventilators? I need 30,000 ventilators. You want a pat on the back for sending 400 ventilators?” In the end, New York had about 90,000 total COVID hospitalizations and reported over 25,000 deaths. Presently, New York reports having 51 COVID patients on ventilators.

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Massachusetts struggled with deciding who might and who might not get a needed ventilator when the virus was raging. The state’s Department of Public Health suggested that a diversity committee be used to help decide who would get the ventilators. Today, with the COVID test positivity rate in Massachusetts at an incredibly-low 1.5%, there are under 30 COVID patients being treated with ventilators.

General Motors and Ventec Life Systems team members assemble the final group of VOCSN V+Pro critical care ventilators Saturday, August 29, 2020, to complete the 30,000 unit order for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic – at the General Motors manufacturing facility in Kokomo, Indiana. The final ventilator was shipped Monday, August 31, 2020. The full federal order was completed in just 154 days, with one ventilator completed about every seven minutes. (Photo by AJ Mast for General Motors and Ventec)

The unique collaboration between Ventec and GM to build V+Pro critical care ventilators began with conference calls initiated by stopthespread.org in mid-March. In under a month, GM and Ventech were shipping ventilators. The first completed units were delivered to hospitals in Michigan and Illinois. By mid-April, GM and Ventech began distribution to other locations where the need was greatest.

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In mid-April, White House Assistant to the President Peter Navarro said, “GM’s rapid mobilization of America’s manufacturing might in defense of our country is a proud salute to the ingenuity of its engineers, the true grit of its UAW workers on the line, and America’s doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals fighting for our lives at the front lines. As these lifesaving ventilators roll off GM’s assembly line as fast as tanks once did in an earlier World War, they will be rapidly deployed to the hospitals of Gary, Chicago, and far beyond.”