I have a piece up on the home page on how the administration handled the potential shortfall in ventilators quite deftly. It obviously helped that the lockdowns kept the disease from running completely out of control, but the administration almost certainly would have been able to handle worse numbers.
A key, as I write in the piece, was not simply giving states the ventilators they were requesting, which played in the media as a failure, when it was really an element of the success.
A number of insights drove the effort:
1) Governors often didn’t know what they were talking about when they made big requests. They didn’t know how many ventilators they had, didn’t know how many were in use, and understandably wanted a big margin for error.
2) It was important to get a granular look at the ventilator picture around the country, especially how many were in use at one time. A data team used CMS billings to figure this out.
3) Because FEMA could do just-in-time deliveries, it wasn’t necessary to send out ventilators based on what models said the demand would be in two or three weeks. The administration could wait to see the situation in real time and act accordingly.
4) Since the hot spots are geographically limited, there are hospitals all over the country not using ventilators. That made for a de facto reserve that was tapped by guaranteeing states and hospitals they’d get ventilators back quickly if they needed them after lending them to hard-hit areas.
In addition, production was ramped up quickly working with manufacturers and occasionally using the DPA. All of this means that the worst was avoided — although New Jersey and New York were near the edge at times — and the federal stockpile is now growing.