Caleb Cook
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GM Joins Urgent Effort to Build COVID-19 Ventilators

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A shortage of ventilators is one of the most critical problems America faces in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and GM is exploring an array of options to help.

The automaker is working with Seattle-area medical device maker Ventec Life Systems, providing the company with logistics, purchasing, and manufacturing resources to help it make more ventilators.

“With GM’s help, Ventec will increase ventilator production,” said Chris Kiple, Ventec’s CEO. “By tapping their expertise, GM is enabling us to get more ventilators to more hospitals much faster. This partnership will help save lives.”

As part of this effort, the Detroit Free Press reports that GM is reaching out to auto parts suppliers to have them manufacture critical parts for ventilators. At least two suppliers, Twin City Die Castings in Minneapolis and Spartan Light Metal Products near St. Louis, have been chosen so far.  

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GM is also weighing whether to commit an entire plant to making ventilators. The most likely location is the automaker’s facility in Kokomo, Indiana, which makes electrical components. This plant normally employs nearly 400 people but is being idled as part of a company-wide auto production halt that’s currently scheduled to last through the end of March.

COVID-19 often strikes at patients’ ability to breathe, which means that ventilators play a critical role in preventing deaths from the virus. However, many hospitals around the country are facing potential shortages of these machines.

Under the Defense Production Act, the federal government could order private companies to switch over to ventilator production as a national defense measure. However, it hasn’t yet done so, leaving the effort up to voluntary partnerships like the one between Ventec and GM.

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