Elon Musk’s coronavirus PR stunt goes awry after promising to manufacture ventilators, but only ‘if’ there are shortages
The digital fracas began after Musk signaled that he could use Tesla and SpaceX’s production capabilities to make medical equipment to aid those suffering from the global pandemic. The offer, however, came with a condition: Are there hospitals that currently lack enough ventilators to treat the respiratory illness?
Tesla makes cars with sophisticated hvac systems. SpaceX makes spacecraft with life support systems. Ventilators are not difficult, but cannot be produced instantly. Which hospitals have these shortages you speak of right now?— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 19, 2020
His query enraged social media, with countless blue-checkmarked Twitter accounts expressing disbelief that the billionaire businessman would need to ask such a question.
Georgetown University professor Don Moynihan cited models that America’s critical care bed capacity would soon be overwhelmed by the virus.
“So, all of the hospitals need ventilators. All of them,” he replied to Musk.
Simulation models are predicting that *even with social distancing* critical care bed capacity (the red line at the bottom) will be overwhelmed So, all of the hospitals need ventilators. All of them. https://t.co/VVAeacF75npic.twitter.com/UMrGQbxEUp— Don Moynihan (@donmoyn) March 19, 2020
Others wondered if Musk had been keeping up-to-date with the news, remarking that it was common knowledge that hospitals across the globe were under incredible strain due to the epidemic.
More cynical takes theorized that Musk was angling for a government contract. Tesla’s competitors, Ford and General Motors, are reportedly already in talks with the Trump administration to “help find solutions” to the health crisis.
Elon is flexing and wants a government contract. Seems pretty obvious.— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) March 19, 2020
The Tesla CEO has been highly critical of the response to Covid-19, claiming that panic over the illness will be far worse than the health crisis that it has sparked. In an email to Tesla employees, he said that he would still be coming to work at the Fremont, California car plant, despite a ‘shelter in place’ order from local authorities.
Musk also has a shaky track record when it comes to using his engineering know-how for seemingly altruistic purposes. He was widely ridiculed for making a mini-sub to help rescue a group of boys and their football coach from a cave in Thailand. The contraption was deemed impractical and was never used.
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