Ford and GM Building Ventilators: We Can Do It, We Need Directions from the Administration

Ford and GM Building Ventilators: We Can Do It, We Need Directions from the Administration


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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As the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the United States, the ongoing need for medical supplies is a critical factor in the battle against the disease.

In the United States, the latest numbers are 26,908 sickened and 348 left dead.

Among the most critical supplies are N95 masks, coronavirus test kits, and respirators.

Skilled workers in the Detroit area who have worked for the automakers could be put back to work, as those auto plants are temporarily shut down, perhaps some old auto plants could be retrofitted so as to increase production of ventilators and other needed equipment.

However, what’s needed is direction from Donald Trump, according to Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.).

“We have amazing engineers. We have the best workers, highly skilled workers that can turn it around. But it does take time. What they need are direct orders coming in. Now we have Defense Production Act,” said Peters, referring to a Korean War-era law which Trump recently invoked in response to the coronavirus outbreak. “The administration has to start saying, ‘We need these businesses to start doing that.’

“But I also want to be realistic about it. You have to change production lines from auto assembly. That is not something you can do overnight, but it is something you should start. I was talking to the CEO of Steelcase, a furniture manufacturer here in Michigan, he is ready to do that,” Peters added. “They’re not making office furniture — or they are still doing it, but office furniture, obviously demand is going down as people are working at home. But he told me, ‘We can make hospital beds, we can make gurneys, we can make partitions to be able to keep people safely separated.’ They’re willing to do that. They just need direction from the administration: ‘What do you want us to do? We can do it.’ In that case, going from office furniture to a hospital bed is a much quicker transition.

“Clearly, we’re going to need more hospital beds if the capacity in our hospitals is overwhelmed. We’re going to need that type of equipment. But we need action now. This takes time. We need direction now from the administration,” he added. “Start engaging the industrial and manufacturing muscle of this country, and we can do it.”

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