What are the core health and medical tools, technologies, and resources we need to handle thousands or tens of thousands of cases in cities and towns around the US? Why haven't we scaled up production?
One of the biggest concerns facing health-care systems down the road is the availability of medical ventilators for hospitalized patients. Covid-19 is a respiratory disease, and for those severely affected, it's critical to be able to provide oxygen or mechanical help with breathing. The US has only 160,000 ventilators available at the moment—a fraction of what we may need if the virus hits harder. Current business models are just not designed to incentivize this level of manufacturing, though there are efforts to change that right now.
But by far, the biggest immediate need is testing kits. "We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test," WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press briefing Monday. Unfortunately, the US simply hasn't been testing enough people, and it's almost a certainty there are many more infections than cases that have been confirmed. Production is ramping up now thanks to new efforts by private and academic labs, but might be too late.
Down the road, we'll also need to figure out how to scale up manufacturing of antiviral treatments or even a viable vaccine.