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California Nearly Halfway To Goal Of 10,000 More Ventilators Before Anticipated COVID-19 Surge

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A Silicon Valley clean energy business reinvented its workforce nearly overnight in light of the coronavirus crisis, and is now fixing-up forgotten ventilators for use in California hospitals.

Gov. Gavin Newsom toured Bloom Energy, a fuel cell plant in Sunnyvale, on Saturday, where he announced the company had refurbished dozens of ventilators for use at intensive care units.

“That’s the spirit of California at this moment,” Newsom said of the company, which he visited with San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

The state’s goal is to get 10,000 more ventilators functional for its hospitals in anticipation of a surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the coming weeks. It currently has secured 4,252, but approximately a thousand of those are not in working condition. 

More than 500 of these ventilators are from the state Department of Public Health, according to Newsom, and they hadn’t been out of the box since 2011. Even the batteries didn’t work, the governor said. 

Some 130 additional ventilators were sent by the federal government to Los Angeles County, but many of those were not in operating condition, either. 

The state sent these ventilators to Bloom this week and the company plans to have nearly 200 refurbished by Saturday night.

Newsom said there is “no more important issue to meet” than addressing the goal of 10,000 extra ventilators for the state’s hospitals.

California itself has not received any ventilators from the federal government, Newsom said.

The governor also acknowledged other companies throughout California that are retooling their businesses to help with the coronavirus crisis. 

The Gap clothing company is working on personal protective equipment for health-care workers, such as gowns and masks, he said. Distilleries such as Anheuser-Busch, which brews Budweiser beer, are producing hand sanitizer. And retail market 7-Eleven found 1 million masks at a facility in Stockton, which it gave to the state.

As of Friday night, 101 Californians had died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to the governor.

ICU visits are up 105 percent overnight, in addition to a 38.6 percent increase in hospitalizations and more than 3,000 “persons of interest” who are waiting for test results, according to Newsom, who said officials are confident that the vast majority will not test positive.

“Physical distancing remains the most important thing we can do to meet this moment,” he said of the state’s stay-home order.

The governor says he has still not been tested for COVID-19 and has no systems. Before the tour of the Bloom facility in Sunnyvale on Saturday, his team had their temperatures checked, which he said was protocol every day for his administration.

“I’m confident at the moment that I’m healthy,” Newsom said. “But, you know, check in tomorrow.”

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