Updated Mar 19, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus: GM and Ford in talks with Trump admin to make ventilators

Line workers at the Flint Assembly plant in Flint, Michigan, 2019. Photo: Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images

Ford and General Motors are looking into making medical equipment including ventilators that could help combat the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Details: White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Fox News he had spoken with executives including GM CEO Mary Barra about the issue.

What they're saying: A GM spokesperson told the Financial Times that Barra was in talks with the Trump administration "to help find solutions" in response to the pandemic. "[W]e are already studying how we can potentially support production of medical equipment like ventilators," the spokesperson added.

  • A Ford spokesperson said the firm "stands ready to help the administration in any way we can, including the possibility of producing ventilators and other equipment," per Automotive News. Axios has contacted the companies for comment.
  • Meanwhile, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted in response to a question on the matter late Wednesday, "We will make ventilators if there is a shortage."

Of note: The announcement of the talks comes after General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler agreed to close all of their North American factories through at least March 30 in order for their plants to be thoroughly sanitized.

Why it matters: Ventilators are critical in the treatment of the most severe cases of COVID-19 in helping patients to breathe. But they're in short supply, per Axios' Caitlin Owens, who notes there are about 62,000 in the U.S. and there's "only a limited ability to tap other supplies."

Zoom in: Airon Corporation, a small ventilator maker in Gainesville, Florida, which would otherwise usually sell 50 machines "in a good month," told WIRED Wednesday the company is struggling to keep up with demand in the U.S. and had to turn down a request from an Italian company for 2,000 machines.

  • The Defense Department announced Tuesday it would make available up to 5 million respirator masks and other personal protective equipment from its strategic reserves to the Department of Health and Human Services for distribution.

The big picture: While China's Hubei province, where the virus was first discovered, reported for the first time no new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, the number of infections has continued to surge around the world — including in the U.S., where there were more than 9,300 cases and 150 deaths linked to the pandemic by early Thursday.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

New Zealand sets sights on coronavirus elimination after 2 weeks of lockdown

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gives a coronavirus media update at the New Zealand Parliament. Photo: Mark Mitchell - Pool/Getty Images

New Zealand has flattened the curve of novel coronavirus cases after two weeks of lockdown and the next phase is to "squash it," professor Shaun Hendy, who heads a scientific body advising the government on COVID-19, told Axios.

Why it matters: The country imposed 14 days ago some of the toughest restrictions in the world in response to the pandemic, despite confirming only 102 cases and no deaths at the time.

Go deeperArrow21 hours ago - Health

New York's coronavirus curve may be close to flattening

A coronavirus patient in Queens. Photo: Kena Betancur/Getty Images

There's some hope the wave of coronavirus cases in New York City, the hardest-hit area of the country, is starting to plateau.

The big picture: Deaths keep rising, but hospitalizations, intensive care unit admissions and intubations have mostly been stagnant or declining in recent days.

Go deeperArrow20 hours ago - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates: Daily death toll exceeds 2,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The novel coronavirus has now killed more than 2,000 people for the second day in a row, and it's infected more than 431,000 others, per Johns Hopkins data.

Where it stands: More than 14,700 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. — including over 4,500 in New York. The state's death toll surged to its highest one-day total on Wednesday — beating the previous day's record. 779 people died in New York in 24 hours. The state has reported more cases than the most-affected countries in Europe.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health