Elon Musk Is Stepping Up To Help Fight The Coronavirus

Elon Musk can solve the ventilator shortage and we can help. In a recent article by New York Magazine, the author writes that “Elon Musk Can’t Solve This.”  The problem is that hospitals in the U.S. are in a crisis — they are running out of ventilators and other basic personal protective equipment (PPE). They are also preparing for the imminent onslaught of intensive care unit (ICU) admissions as a result of the coronavirus.

In New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, doctors and nurses are struggling to treat patients and fear they are infecting them. The fundamental problem is a shortage of ventilators and protective equipment. This problem is one that Elon Musk is ready to help solve by leveraging the might and intellect of Tesla in our country’s moment of need.

The New Orleans riverfront. Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

Elon Musk is a hero to me and I understand that others may not feel the same way. Many have gotten upset with his seeming lack of concern over the coronavirus. Some of his tweets seemed dismissive. To me, they seemed a bit too optimistic — hoping that it won’t be as bad as many fear it could be. I say “seemingly” because, to me, he seemed overly optimistic more than dismissive. Perception is everything and not everyone would agree with me on that and that’s fine with me.

Just a few weeks ago, President Trump and his leadership team were telling people that the coronavirus was a hoax. With our own leaders saying this on the world stage, it’s easy to buy into the fact that the virus isn’t as bad as the media is making it out to be. 

Putting all of that aside, I believe that Elon Musk can solve a critical piece of the problem — the shortage of medical equipment. The argument is that Tesla is a car manufacturer and knows nothing about making medical supplies. “Elon is a billionaire, a playboy with five (or is it six?) multi-million-dollar houses.” It is easy to see how many people see him as an out-of-touch person who doesn’t understand the struggle of the average American.

The truth is, Elon isn’t so out of touch. Yes he is a billionaire. Yes, he has more than one multimillion dollar house and yes he has another child on the way, but that’s his life. How he lives his life has nothing to do with the fact that he is a genius. I’m not saying this because I admire him. I am saying this because of SpaceX. 

If you look at the history of SpaceX and Elon’s quest to make mankind a multi-planetary species, you see what he has achieved so far. Here we have a guy who, when faced with rejection by Russia (he wanted to buy some unarmed nukes), had to learn how to build rockets on his own. Elon Musk literally taught himself how to build and launch rockets. Not only that, but SpaceX has accomplished what many experts believed to be impossible — launching a rocket then landing the booster safely back on earth.

If he can do that, why can’t he learn how to make ventilators? Sure, it may take time, but if Tesla, SpaceX, and Elon Musk worked with other medical companies to help fill in the gaps causing the shortage, hospitals could gain access to the life-saving equipment needed to help those suffering not just from the coronavirus but other things as well. People having open-heart surgeries need ventilators — just to name one example. 

Robert Chatburn, an associate professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University, had something to say about the matter to New York Magazine. “It’s ridiculous. It’s laudable that car manufacturers would want to help. But there’s only a handful of people in the world who know how to design a ventilator, much less manufacture one safely at scale.”

What is actually ridiculous is the fact that critics are bashing someone with the funds, resources, and brains to make a difference for wanting to help. SpaceX, the aerospace tech company that Elon Musk founded, has had several major achievements as well as setbacks. Remember, he didn’t know anything about building or launching rockets when he started that venture.

It is true that we may not have time to sit back and wait for Elon and his team to learn how to make ventilators, but instead of bashing him and arguing that it is impossible, why not band together with him and get to work? If nothing else, doing something productive is surely better than doing nothing. It’s better than allowing the hospitals to go without life-saving medical protective equipment. 

Elon Musk isn’t the only one who has offered to help. Several other automakers are stepping up to help as well. “We are currently doing an internal study to understand the needs and capabilities and how we may be able to help during this crisis,” Jeannine Ginivan, a GM spokeswoman, told NPR. Ford spokeswoman, Rachel McCleery, said that “[Ford] stands ready to help the administration in any way we can, including the possibility of producing ventilators and other equipment.”

Imagine for a moment, all of these major manufacturing factories teaming up to produce ventilators and other protective gear for medical staff, investing their money and resources into helping those in need. Sure, they will profit from hospitals buying the ventilators just as any corporation would make money selling things we need. I am sure Charmin is probably hiring extra accountants right now with the senseless rush to buy toilet paper sparked by the coronavirus, but the point is that these funds are being generated from saving lives instead of killing the planet. Instead of producing vehicles, life-saving equipment can be produced instead.

We should root for those who want to help instead of pointing fingers and being hateful while saying that it is impossible. I believe Elon Musk can solve this. However, we can also help him by not screaming about how dumb or impossible the task is. We can help by continuing to distance ourselves socially, encouraging those working and doing our part to prevent the spread of the virus. Instead of being pessimistic, we can be realistic and hopeful. We should also learn to give grace to those subjected to public scrutiny for every word that passes their lips or Twitter feeds. Elon may have come off as dismissive to some, but remember, he is human, too — and like all humans, he makes mistakes. Forgive Trump for saying it’s a hoax and forgive those who say stupid things out of anger.

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