Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Tesla's Elon Musk: We'll make ventilators if coronavirus causes a hospital shortage

Elon Musk says Tesla will produce ventilators if there is a shortage due to the new coronavirus outbreak.

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk says his company could produce ventilators if there's a shortage of the breathing aids at US hospitals caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic

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His comments on Twitter come amid concerns that US hospitals could run out of ventilators unless citizens take steps to stop the spread of coronavirus. 

As per NBC, the American Hospital Association, which represents nearly 5,000 hospitals, warned on Wednesday that there are limited supplies of ventilators and urged the public to follow advice to practice social distancing. 

"We will make ventilators if there is a shortage," Musk said in a tweet.  

He explained that electric-vehicle company Tesla makes cars with sophisticated heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems, while SpaceX makes spacecraft with life-support systems. 

"Ventilators are not difficult, but cannot be produced instantly. Which hospitals have these shortages you speak of right now?" he wrote in response to a comment that there was a shortage of ventilators. 

The Financial Times reported today that GM and Ford are in talks with the White House about using vacant factories to manufacture ventilators. The companies have announced shutdowns of all North American facilities to help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Tesla on Wednesday was told by the Alameda County Sheriff that the electric vehicle maker isn't an "essential business" but it is permitted to maintain "minimum based operations per the Alameda County Health order". 

According to BuzzFeed News, Tesla is allowed to operate with a quarter of its typical workforce. Tesla will reportedly temporarily reduce its workforce at the Fremont, California, facility from 10,000 to 2,500 people to help workers practice social distancing. 

SEE: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Musk's offer to produce ventilators follows his recent comments suggesting that the panic over the coronavirus is overblown and that driving home is more dangerous. 

"As a basis for comparison, the risk of death from C19 is *vastly* less than the risk of death from driving your car home," Musk wrote to SpaceX employees. 

"There are about 36,000 automotive deaths per [year], as compared to 36 so far this year for C19."