20 January 2020, Baden-Wuerttemberg, ---: A doctor operates a ventilator in an intensive care unit. Photo: Marijan Murat/dpa (Photo by Marijan Murat/picture alliance via Getty Images)

As the number of coronavirus patients in Connecticut continues to rise, the number of available ventilators is becoming the focus. There may be a significant shortage.
“You don’t just go to Amazon to get a ventilator,” Gov. Ned Lamont told CNBC. “I was on the phone for hours yesterday with hospitals, saying, ‘This may be on us and we’ve got to take the lead on this. Where do you source this? What can I do to help?’”
Just how many ventilators there are in Connecticut is not information that has been made public, but the the Society of Critical Care Medicine said there are about 169,638 in the United States. At least there were 11 years ago when that survey of hospitals was conducted.
That number includes about 62,000 modern, “full-featured” ventilators, another 98,738 older models that don’t have all the bells and whistles but can provide basic functions and an additional 8,900 ventilators in the Strategic National Supply.
That doesn’t count modern anesthesia machines, which “are capable of ventilating patients and can be used to increase hospitals’ surge capacity,” as the SCCM reported, and it doesn't take into account any supply chain disruptions that might occur during an epidemic.
Officials have been aware of the concern since the epidemic began to take shape.
“We’re aware there’ll be an increased demand for ventilators given the respiratory symptoms associated with COVID-19,” Francesca Provenzano of the Department of Public Health told legislators earlier this month. “The strategic national stockpile does include ventilators but those will be in limited supply, and the state of Connecticut does maintain a calibrated cache of them in our state but, again, limited supply.”
What matters most, of course, is how severe the epidemic is. Michael Ivy, deputy chief medical officer of Yale New Haven Health, said “Some of this depends on how it plays out.”
“If it’s 20 percent of patients that require hospitalization and a significant percentage, 5 percent, of patients require ventilators, that’s going to be a lot, absolutely,” he said.