06:21 GMT04 June 2020
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    Ford Motor Company and GE Healthcare plan to manufacture 50,000 ventilators within the next 100 days at a Michigan facility amid the widespread COVID-19 pandemic.

    The devices, which are life support machines that help people breathe when they cannot do so on their own, will be produced by United Auto Workers union members starting April 20, executives at both companies confirmed, CNBC reported.

    ​By early July, the facility at Ford's Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, will be able to produce around 30,000 ventilators a month. Officials have also said that Ford expects to manufacture 1,500 ventilators by the end of April, 12,000 by the end of May and 50,000 before July 4, CNBC reported.

    The ventilator design is being licensed by GE Healthcare, which is a privately owned company based in Florida that specializes in pneumatic life support products. 

    Executives at Ford do not currently have private customers to purchase the ventilators, according to CNBC, and the company is "working closely" with government officials.

    According to The Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM), at least 950,000 coronavirus patients in the US might require ventilators. However, hospitals across the country only have 160,000 available for use.

    In its statement, the SCCM also warns that "resources may be overwhelmed" during the US coronavirus outbreak.

    "Hospitals and their critical care organizations must include in their pandemic resource planning an ethical and legal approach to triage and resource allocation that would be activated only if the pandemic is perceived to be overwhelming the hospital’s surge capacity strategies," the organization notes.

    The decision to produce more ventilators comes after GE factory workers led two separate protests on Monday demanding that the company use its jet engine factories to manufacture ventilators. According to a report by Vice, employees at GE's Lynn, Massachusetts, aviation facility held a silent protest while standing 6 feet apart. Union members in Boston also marched 6 feet apart in protest Monday.

    In a statement obtained by Vice, GE said it is "working around the clock to increase production of much-needed medical equipment."

    "GE Healthcare has already doubled ventilator production capacity, with a plan to double it again by June, in addition to partnering with Ford Motor Company to further increase ventilator production," the company said in the statement. "We continue to explore additional opportunities to support the fight against COVID-19, while continuing to support mission-critical work for our customers as well."

    Members of the Industrial Division of Communication Workers of America (IUE-CWA) have also expressed desire to help produce more ventilators.

    "Ventilators are desperately needed at hospitals in New York, California, Washington State, and Florida. They soon will be in short supply from the East Coast to the West Coast, from Puerto Rico to Hawaii, from Alaska and Illinois to Texas,” CWA President Chris Shelton said in a statement obtained by Vice. “Most Americans are not aware that the best ventilators are already made by General Electric within the company’s healthcare division.”

    There are more than 159,000 cases of COVID-19 in the US, and almost 3,000 people have died as a result, according to the latest data. The state of New York has been hit hardest, with more than 66,000 cases and 1,200 deaths due to the virus. Other states with the highest numbers of coronavirus cases include New Jersey, California and Michigan, in that order.


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