Tesla CEO Elon Musk defended his company’s donations of “noninvasive” ventilators, which may not be able to treat severe cases of coronavirus, and accused his critics of being fake accounts and trolls.
As the coronavirus outbreak worsened in March, Musk offered to donate ventilators to hospitals to address shortages of needed medical equipment. The UCLA Health and the NYC Health and Hospitals networks both thanked Tesla for the donations on Twitter.
But one of the tweets raised questions about how useful the donated devices really were. The photo appeared to show ResMed-made Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) machines, which are similar in design to the common noninvasive Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, devices.
While BiPAP and CPAP machines can help patients with conditions like sleep apnea breathe, they aren’t able to deliver oxygen straight to the lungs, which is the method many patients with critical respiratory issues need, the Financial Times reported.
Critics on Twitter piled on against Musk, who quickly defended himself after a supporter noted that New York Gov.Andrew Cuomo confirmed the BiPAP machines could be converted into the ventilators required to treat COVID-19 patients.
Invasive ventilators are for worst case patients. Survival rate at that point is low, as Gov Cuomo has pointed out. Nonetheless, we start delivery of intratracheal Medtronic units in NYC tonight.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 2, 2020
Musk also tweeted that it was “weird that so many troll/bot accounts were activated to attack on this fake issue.”
ResMed CEO Michael Farrell, in a recent interview with CNBC, praised Musk’s efforts in purchasing the company’s BiPAP machines from a platform five years ago, and then sending the devices from Asia to New York.
An NPR report from late March found CPAP devices may increase COVID-19 infections by aerosolizing the coronavirus. The face masks used with the machines allow air to escape — possibly explaining the disease’s spread through a Washington state nursing home.
The more advanced BiPAP devices are still safe to be used, so long as patients are treated using breathing tubes, not face masks.
For the latest updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak, visit the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 page.
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