Update: Elon Musk tweeted on 4/16/20 a partial list of hospitals where Tesla has sent ventilators. He stated also that these were based on direct requests from ICE wards, with "exact specifications" of each unit provided before shipment.
Almost none of the ventilators Elon Musk promised to donate to the U.S. have actually been delivered, reports The Sacramento Bee. Despite government officials and health agencies thanking Musk for his generosity, the billionaire has not followed through. Some ventilators are waiting to be shipped to individual hospitals; others turned out to not be the life-saving devices Musk had pledged.
Just about a month ago, Tesla CEO and self-professed superhero Elon Musk said he would use his resources to make ventilators “if there is a shortage.” (At the time, the ventilator shortage was already deemed imminent by experts.)
COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across the United States, killing thousands of people each day. Musk’s many promised ventilators would surely help the country now — and in the immediate future — as numbers of serious cases in the country crescendo.
And yet: almost none of Musk’s ventilators have arrived at the hospitals that sorely need them. For all intents and purposes, the ventilators are entirely missing in action. Musk continues to push the narrative that he’s stepping in to help save lives at a time when his resources are needed most. So where are his promised ventilators?
Let’s break it down, shall we? — It may be an understatement to say that Elon was slow to show support for measures being taken to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. On March 6, he showed the opposite of support by tweeting that “the coronavirus panic is dumb.” He also falsely claimed children are “essentially immune” to the virus and suggested deaths would be “close to zero” in the U.S. by the end of April.
Musk changed his tune a few weeks later by tweeting his support. Just days afterward, California governor Gavin Newsom announced some incredible news: Musk had purchased and delivered more than 1,000 ventilators to the state. Newsom called this a “heroic effort.”
At the end of March, the NYC Health and Hospitals Twitter account posted a photo of what appeared to be boxes of ventilators with 8.5”x11” Tesla logos slapped on them. The tweet thanked Tesla for its assistance in the fight against the coronavirus. NYC mayor Bill de Blasio later thanked Musk and said he was “deeply grateful.”
Flash forward another week or so: Tesla uploads a video showing off its ventilator prototype, a device comprised almost entirely of Model 3 parts. The prototype is impressive-looking and appears to be running as planned. Thank goodness the billionaire was finally taking action. Or so we thought.
So, uh, where are the ventilators? — Almost none of the ventilators Musk has spoken of have actually shown up to hospitals in need. In fact, we’ve come to learn that some of those “ventilators” weren’t even ventilators at all.
The 1,000 ventilators Musk reportedly shipped to California — a number echoed by the state’s governor — didn't make it to any hospitals. Governor Newsom says Musk was supposed to take care of shipping them. The governor’s office says no California hospital has received them.
Meanwhile, the “ventilators” that NYC’s health system thanked Musk for were actually... not ventilators. The boxes in that tweet are actually BPAP machines, which are used to treat sleep apnea. They are not the life-saving ventilators of which the U.S. is in dire need. The BPAP machines delivered by Musk cost around $800 each (and this model has actually been discontinued); a ventilator can cost upwards of $50,000.
A later tweet from the NYC Health System did show one actual ventilator and thanked Tesla for it. No other ventilators from Musk’s shipment have been spotted in the wild.
When asked about the BPAP machines, Musk defended the delivery, saying they could be used for patients without severe symptoms. That may be true. But they are not the ventilators we need.
As for Tesla’s own ventilator prototypes, none have actually shipped yet. They’ll need to be approved by the FDA before hospitals can use them, which could take a long time. In a live-streamed update on Sunday, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said he does not believe Tesla’s prototypes will be approved and manufactured quickly enough to help with the current pandemic at all.
False hope — As far as we can tell, Elon Musk has not delivered upon his promises. This is kind of par for the course when it comes to the billionaire’s heroic efforts: they often sound better than their realities. Remember the time he sent a team of engineers to Thailand to create a mini-submarine and save a soccer team trapped in a cave — a submarine that was never actually used?
Maybe it’s time we stop believing the Tesla CEO’s promises. More often than not their fruits turn sour before they see the light of day. The ventilators could still be on their way. But it’s probably best to look for hope elsewhere.