DENVER (KDVR) — Ventilators may be the last line of defense for patients with COVID-19, but it remains unknown how many of the devices actually exist in Colorado.
At a Wednesday morning press conference, Gov. Jared Polis said, “I think there should be fairly accurate estimates of the number of ventilators that are presented to the press if not today, then tomorrow.”
But a day later, the state’s public incident COVID-19 Commander Scott Bookman admitted those numbers still aren’t available.
A spokeswoman for Colorado Hospital Association told FOX31 the state only started counting its supply Wednesday.
Ventilators force oxygen into the lungs of patients who are having trouble breathing.
The Society of Critical Care Medicine predicts some 960,000 Americans fighting the coronavirus may need to be put on a ventilator at some point during the outbreak.
But the organization estimates the entire country only has 200,000 machines.
“That’s one of the things we’re most worried about and why we’re taking this long social-distancing step to avoid the spread of the virus that overwhelms our ability to provide the last line therapy that is ventilators,” said Polis.
The Colorado Hospital Association predicts the state will need 800 additional critical care beds and see an additional 2,000 patients during the outbreak.
On Wednesday, Will Cook, the president and CEO of Vail Health Hospital, wrote an online letter to the Eagle County community warning, “If we don’t commit to social distancing now, our 56-bed Vail Health Hospital will be overflowing within two to four weeks. We will not have enough respirators to keep people alive.”
During a press conference Thursday morning, Vice President Mike Pence sounded an optimistic note.
“We’re encouraged to learn we’ve literally identified tens of thousands of ventilators that can be converted to treat patients and we remain increasingly confident that we will have the ventilators that we need,” he said.
Companies that make ventilators have been asked to ramp up production.
According to the Colorado Hospital Association, it is possible to put up to four patients on a single ventilator, depending on the circumstances.