Only 16,600 ventilators.
That’s the total number of breathing machines that sit in the Strategic National Stockpile, the government reserve meant to fortify overwhelmed hospitals in a crisis. It’s a small supplement to the U.S. medical system’s estimated 160,000 or so ventilators — many already in use — and not nearly enough to help patients survive a severe outbreak of coronavirus infections, health experts say.
The previously unreported stockpile number, confirmed by a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services official who works with the reserve program, shows just how few ventilators are available to a national health system bracing for the full impact of the coronavirus.
The U.S. could have as many as 742,000 patients who need ventilators in a severe outbreak similar to the 1918 Spanish flu, according to a study by the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University, and more than 64,000 in a moderate outbreak.