Curve Flat, Still in Lockdown, Billions Wasted on Ventilators
While the U.S. is still in the midst of various stages of lockdown, data indicate that COVID-19-like illness (CLI) is on the decline. Both indicators that track COVID-19-like illness and the percentage of laboratory tests that are positive for SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — have decreased nationally since mid-July, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).1
It appears the curve has effectively been flattened, with indicators that track COVID-19-like illness decreasing in all regions the week ending August 15, 2020, and the percentage of positive laboratory tests for SARS-CoV-2 decreasing or remaining the same in nine out of 10 regions. Hospitalization rates and mortality attributed to COVID-19 also declined during the same period.2
Meanwhile, the initial virus panic involved the invocation of the Federal Defense Production Act, which included directing $3 billion to companies like General Electric, Philips and Ford to manufacture tens of thousands of ventilators.3 Now, those ventilators are sitting unused.
Ventilator Glut Highlights Misled Virus Response
“The U.S. has too many ventilators,” The Washington Post wrote on August 18, 20204 — an about-face from media headlines posted just months earlier, which talked of ventilator shortages and a “desperate need for ventilators.”5,6
While the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has distributed 15,057 ventilators, 95,713 are sitting unused in a federal stockpile. The vast majority — 94,352 — were part of contracts for ventilators that were signed as a result of COVID-19. For comparison, 10,000 ventilators made up the federal stockpile in April 2020.7
“In the fog of war against the virus, we were trying to do our best to protect the health and safety of the American people,” Peter Navarro, White House trade adviser and Defense Production Act policy coordinator, told The Washington Post. “In this particular chess game, the best move was to make sure we had too many ventilators rather than too few.”8
While some states overestimated their ventilator needs and requested more than they ended up needing, problems with production delayed delivery. By the time many of the ventilators were produced, hospitals had already begun to turn to over methods of treatment for COVID-19 patients, who often fared worse when placed on mechanical ventilation.
In a rant on Twitter, former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson pointed out the irony, too, of flip-flopped media headlines driving hysteria — first to the tune of ventilator shortages and now complaining that the U.S. “forced” manufacturers to build too many ventilators, which are now being wasted:9
“… @washingtonpost ran a big story on the $3 billion the US wasted, I mean invested, in 95,000 never-been-used ventilators (what’s $3,000,000,000 between friends?). Look at that headline, though: “The U.S. forced major manufacturers to build ventilators…”
Forced! FORCED, I tell ya. Now why on earth would the feds have felt forced to use wartime laws to force General Motors to make ventilators? Oh, I dunno, maybe because @Washingtonpost @nytimes were screaming at the top of their non-ventilated lungs about them … And how WE WERE ALL GOING TO DIE WITHOUT THEM …”
Ventilators Overused, Linked to Worse COVID-19 Outcomes
A February 2020 study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine stated, “Mechanical ventilation is the main supportive treatment for critically ill patients” infected with novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).10 In March, the American Hospital Association suggested that up to 960,000 Americans may need ventilator support due to COVID-19.11
To keep up with demand, doctors had suggested rigging ventilators to treat multiple patients, and an emergency ventilator mask was even created by modifying a snorkeling mask already on the market.
As it turned out, not only were such efforts rarely necessary, but the mathematical models that predicted hospitals would be overrun by COVID-19 patients were “astronomically wrong,” according to epidemiologist Dr. John Ioannidis of Stanford University.12
Although a handful of U.S. hospitals did become stressed, no health systems were overrun. “Conversely,” he said, “the health care system was severely damaged in many places because of the [lockdown] measures taken,” while lockdown measures have also significantly increased the number of people at risk of starvation while leading to financial crisis, unrest and civil strife.13
Meanwhile, it quickly became apparent that mechanical ventilators may cause more harm than good in a significant number of COVID-19 patients. In a JAMA study that included 5,700 patients hospitali
Article from LewRockwell