We don’t have anywhere near enough ventilators to care for those who will develop COVID-19, and the Trump administration isn’t helping

The best Rolling Stones album ever recorded, Exile on Main Street, contains a song titled Ventilator Blues, which contains the following phrase… “Don’t matter where you are, everybody, everybody gonna need some kind of ventilator.”

Well, for the past few days, I’ve found myself humming it to myself quite a bit. Reading the word “ventilator” in the press, I guess, must have just thrown a switch in my mind, which is weird, given that I probably haven’t intentionally listened to that particular song in over 20 years. It’s funny what sticks in your brain, and what can cause it to resurface… Here, for those of you who don’t want to follow the link and listen for yourselves, are the lyrics.

When your spine is cracking and your hands, they shake
Heart is bursting and your butt’s gonna break
Woman’s cussing, you can hear her scream
Feel like murder in the first degree

Ain’t nobody slowing down no way
Everybody’s stepping on their accelerator
Don’t matter where you are
Everybody’s gonna need a ventilator

When you’re trapped and circled with no second chances
Code of living is your gun in hand
Can’t be browed by beating, can’t be cowed by words
Messed by cheating, ain’t gonna ever learn

Everybody walking ’round
Everybody trying to step on their Creator
Don’t matter where you are, everybody, everybody gonna
Need some kind of ventilator, some kind of ventilator
Come down and get it

I have no idea what Jagger was thinking when he wrote the lyrics. I doubt, by “ventilator,” he meant a medical ventilator – a piece of machinery that pushes air in and out of the lungs – but I suppose anything is possible. Given that “murder” and “gun” also appear in the song, I’m assuming, when he says “ventilator,” he’s referring to a handgun, or something that, like a gun, can be used to put holes through a person’s chest, thereby “ventilating” them. It’s not a phase that’s used very often these days in the context of murder, but I’ve heard it said. In the 1979 film “The Villain,” for instance, Kirk Douglas utters the phrase, “Take another step and I’ll ventilate you.” None of this, of course, really matters. It’s just that, for the past 24 hours, I haven’t been able to stop saying, “Everybody gonna need some kind of ventilator.” When I say it, though, I’m not talking about a gun.

OK, with all of that said, let’s now shift gears a bit, and get back to the coronavirus. [The ventilator stuff will make sense in a minute. I promise.]

I don’t know the numbers for Michigan, but, in New York, where they have 950 active cases of COVID-19, I’ve read that roughly 20% are requiring hospitalization. The problem, as I understand it, is that they have just 3,000 intensive care beds in the entire state, of which only about 20% were available when the coronavirus pandemic hit. And New York isn’t alone. According to today’s New York Times, “It’s estimated that we have about 45,000 intensive care unit beds in the United States.” The might sounds like a big number, but, as the Times also points out, “In a moderate outbreak, about 200,000 Americans would need one.” What’s more, a very large percentage of these 45,000 beds are already taken. [Hospitals aren’t built with pandemics in mind. They’re built to run near capacity all the time. Just like airplanes don’t generally fly with empty seats, hospitals, at least the successful ones, don’t operate with excess capacity. They operate as lean as possible, and we’re now going to pay a price for that.]

But it’s not just hospital beds that are an issue. Even if we had enough ICU beds in the United States, we wouldn’t have the ventilators that are necessary to treat COVID-19 victims. [The most severe cases require ventilators.] While I don’t happen to know the number of ventilators in New York, or Michigan, it appears as though we only have about 62,000 machines in use right now, across the entire country. And that’s just a fraction of what we’d need, according to recent estimates.

As Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said on Saturday morning, “If you don’t have enough ventilators, it’s obvious people who need it will not be able to get it. That’s when you’re going to have to make some very tough decisions.” And, by “decisions,” he means, of course, the kinds of decisions they’re now making in Italy, where they’re having to decide who gets a ventilator, and who doesn’t… or, to put in more bluntly, who lives and who dies.

And here, if you don’t believe my interpretation of Fauci’s comments, is a quote from today’s Washington Post. “Even with the action being taken now in US, experts say hospitals will most likely run out of beds and ventilators and be forced to ration care, choosing which patients to save and which to let die.”

There is, however, an extremely faint glimmer of hope. According to Dr. Eric Toner, who studies hospital preparedness for pandemics at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, there is “a strategic national stockpile of ventilators” being held by the federal government, which could contain between 4,000 to 10,000 additional units. [Toner told NPR yesterday that we don’t know the exact count, as “the numbers are classified.”]

OK, so that bring us to today, when a number of governors, on a conference call with Donald Trump, asked whether or not the federal government could assist in getting ventilators – either newly manufactured, or from the strategic national stockpile – to the hospitals that need them… And apparently it didn’t go well… Here’s the New York Times headline.

Thats right. Donald Trump’s response, when asked about ventilators, was, “Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves.” The suggestion, according to the Times, “surprised some of the governors.” Here’s the actual audio.

I don’t know how many more illustrations the people of America need before they take to the streets (standing at least six feet apart from one another) and demand a change in leadership, but one would think that we’ve got to be getting really close.

Oh, and Donald “I don’t take responsibility at all” Trump also have himself a “10” today, on a scale from 1 to 10, for his handling of the COVID-19 crisis. “I’d rate it a 10,” he told reporters, “I think we’ve done a great job.”

update: Asked today why the administration didn’t move faster on the subject of ventilators, the President said, “(T)his is a very unforeseen thing, nobody ever thought of these numbers.”

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  1. John Brown
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Meanwhile Barr’s crooked ass DOJ dropped charges against ruskies tied to agent oranges treason. A big serving of betraying of America with a contagion on top. String him up.

  2. iRobert
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Have you been calling him the Mango Mussolini, JB?

    I thought that one was cute.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Orange Voldemort also works.

    As for ventilators, does anyone know how many we have in Michigan. I read the Toner interview and he says the average 150-bed hospital has approximately 20 of them. the University of Michigan Hospital has 550 beds. Does that mean U-M has about 75?

  4. yours truly
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Do people really not think this is important? Why isn’t there more conversation on this thread. People should be outraged.

  5. EOS
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Trump said the Federal government has the money authorized and has reached out to manufacturers to obtain as many ventilators as possible, but that the states should not wait idly for the Federal government to provide, but should also purchase as many ventilators as possible.

    Mark’s Titles are misleading. It seems he is more concerned with blaming Trump for everything than in saving lives.

  6. Jean Henry
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    He’s just upset that this crisis is forcing him work more than 4 hours a day… I honestly think most of his decisions (or lack thereof) re reducing the size of govt, ignoring appointments, etc are motivated by laziness: “It’s not my responsibility.”

    His loyal circle, like Stephen Miller, take advantage and work very hard to implement their ideas, however. It’s nerve-wracking to think about what they might do in this case. HW already suggested martial law which appeals to his mass arrest of liberals fantasy.

    Thanks for the Exile on Main Sreet reminder. Every once in a while I put a classic album on repeat in the house until my kids learn all the songs. They actually both have great independent musical taste, but I want them to be exposed to the canon. They understand what an album is and tend to like contemporary artists who put out proper albums with beginnings middles and ends. Those who still produce concept albums tend to offer a deeper and iterative experience. Anyway, music is one of the things that makes staying home bearable. It’s good company.

  7. Jean Henry
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    EOS– I didn;t know Mark was responsible for saving lives in this pandemic. You give him a lot of power and moral responsibility

    A reminder that you suggested that all the pandemic related deaths of seniors would solve the Social Security and Medicare issues… because you are so concerned with saving lives.

    PS when no money goes into SS funds due to economic slowdown, it’s going to be in even worse trouble than ever. Not to mention, Trump is talking about a freeze on payroll taxes. But you know, all those deaths, are a bright side. Just so long as they arent fetuses.

  8. Frosted Flakes
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    I agree EOS. I thought Cuomo did a good job explaining the situation at first but I feel like he has chosen to politicize (and place blame) the situation in a gross way. Similar to Mark at times.

  9. site admin
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Just a reminder that people aren’t obligated to spend their time on this site.

  10. Frosted Flakes
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Trespassing vs. squatters rights.

    Floating your ideas out and simultaneously ignoring criticisms of those ideas, over the course of a long period of time, is similar to the totally absent landowner,who, through his failure to MAINTAIN his land, finds himself in a situation where a group squatters have moved-in, occupied, and transformed the particular piece of land. Instead of directly confronting the group of squatters, you sit far away with a piece of paper in your hand whispering to yourself “But I own that land”.

    Dude, if you want to claim what you think is yours you need to confront the criticisms with actual arguments grounded in reason and MAINTAINED by reason . That is, you need get off the cushy sofa in the city and go out to that piece of country land, you think you own, and explain with arguments to the squatters why they shouldn’t feel shouldn’t feel at home with their arguments and criticisms. You might not like the fact that others have transformed the UNMAINTAINED plot of land, but waving a paper in the air, while whispering passive aggressive remarks, from a remote location, makes you look weak—and it is not inline with the concept of squatters rights—for good reason.

    Sorry. I don’t feel like a trespasser at all.

  11. Anonymous
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Of course, Mark could just remove your posts as an eviction. Why does a landlord have to use powers of persuasion to maintain his property? Maybe you are a weed in a meadow of wildflowers/jk.

  12. iRobert
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    We’re all supposed to treat the president like a spoiled child. Otherwise he’ll throw a tantrum and refuse to do his chores. Like I’ve said, Mark is a bad man! He’s a very bad man! And he’s saying bad things about Trump. He’s going to wish Mark into the cornfield.

    The things Trump’s done have been good things. They’ve been REAL good thing. Doesn’t everyone agree? He done REAL good things – FINE things!

    Cuomo and Whitmer better stop saying bad things about him.

  13. Jean Henry
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    I stand by my earlier analysis that FF is oppositionally motivated. People who are oppositionally motivated would rather spend time where they will be confronted and can freely be confrontational. The more they are confronted the deeper they dig into their narrative bias. Everybody is like this to some degree, but the oppositionally motivated thrive on it. It doesn’t matter how many times FF is confronted with his own double standards. It doesn’t matter that he could be having more iterative and nuanced disccussions with people who align with his belief system. And that he actively AVOIDS those. He is certain his reason guides him to truth. And the more he is argued here, the more he believes. And that belief system is clearly as or more important to him than the liberal progressive belief systems most of us here hold. Is it even most if us anymore??

    What Mark has simply pointed up FF is that you CHOOSE to be here. All the time. You choose to spend your time among people with whom you disagree. So your expressed aversion is in fact much more likely to be an attraction. Just like a homophobic person will go to gay neighborhoods looking for an altercation with a gay man, I think your real conflict is internal.

  14. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    “oppositionally motivated”

    Sounds like the Suppressive Person in Scientology. If you are not a good Scientologist you are probably an SP and should be shunned.

  15. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    “John Brown
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 6:19 am | Permalink
    Meanwhile Barr’s crooked ass DOJ dropped charges against ruskies tied to agent oranges treason. A big serving of betraying of America with a contagion on top. String him up.”

    By string him up you mean hang Bill Barr?

  16. Frosted Flakes
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Yes. Why not Landlord of ideas?

    Good way to frame the question, Anonymous.

  17. EOS
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Except FF is one of the nicest persons on this blog and has many followers who agree with his ideas. Jean – not so much.

  18. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    “We don’t have anywhere near enough ventilators to care for those who will develop COVID-19”

    If that turns out to be be true then props. If not then you are officially a fear-mongering blogger, correct?

  19. iRobert
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    I think JB is referring to the Mango Mussolini.

  20. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    JB is a walking pile of garbage. “Durrr, da ruskies! iiihhhh…”

  21. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Remember when the Mueller report came out and eeeveryone here was too stunned to post for days? THAT was some funny shit.

  22. iRobert
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never been too stunned by anything not to post some asinine attempt at humor here. And I intend to continue that tradition, no matter what happens. We’ve survived Jean. What worse plague could the universe throw at us?

  23. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think you were posting then. I was like “MUELLER REPORT OUT!!! NO COLLUSION!!!!!” and it was crickets for two days. Sad finally had to break the silence and be like “Wulp, it looks like HW was right!”

  24. Frosted Flakes
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    EOS: Thanks for the kind words.

    Jean: Things you say make sense in the abstract but they rarely apply to anything occurring in reality as far as I can tell. I believe in debate. I believe in evidence based reasoning. I don’t consider belief in those things to be a sign of an underlying character flaw.

    You don’t seem to understand basic stuff—like what makes you think you have the right to assume that I avoid other kinds of places? Where did I go today? What did I have for dinner? What are your bullshitty little theories made out of?

    Yes, I choose to comment here? You caught me. What is your point? Do you wish I chose to not post here? If so, why?

  25. iRobert
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    Jean, is being oppositionally motivated a bad thing?

    Are you also oppositionally motivated?

  26. Sad
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    A little understood nor appreciated virtue during a pandemic is Word conservation.

    You’re not helping FF.

  27. iRobert
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    I’m jealous of FF’s writing skill also, Sad.

  28. Posted March 17, 2020 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    …and to be fair to FF, EOS and HW; they can’t say a critical word about the lil Mango Mussolini. They can’t even think a bad thought about him. He’ll wish them into the cornfield, like he’s doing to our Governor.


3 Trackbacks

  1. […] Whitmer, is working to acquire more ventilators, as we only have 1,000 in the entire state, and Donald Trump doesn’t seem to be offering significant help. Asked about this today, Whitmer said, “I feel like we are making some progress, but if the […]

  2. […] illness, including respiratory failure.” And, fourth, we know that, when all of this started we only had about 62,000 ventilators in use in the United States, with somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 additional units being held in reserve by the federal […]

  3. […] her job. She’s supposed to advocate for us, and that means calling out the federal government when the refuse to offer any significant help in the face of a […]

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