File photo of a ventilator.

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Gov. Doug Ducey announced on Friday that 100 ventilators are heading to Arizona to aid in the fight against COVID-19. They will come from Strategic National Stockpile, a national storehouse of crucial medical supplies.

The ventilators are machines that force oxygen into the lungs of patients critically ill with coronavirus. Gov. Ducey, Senator Martha McSally and President Donald Trump requested that the ventilators be sent to Arizona. While thanking the president, Ducey explained how these additional ventilators will help significantly.

“I want to thank President Trump for his leadership and responsiveness during this pandemic,” Ducey said in a statement. “As Arizona prepares for an anticipated peak of COVID-19 cases, these ventilators will add to our surge capacity and help us prepare in our tribal communities and elsewhere. President Trump and I spoke about this Wednesday night. I’m grateful that he was able to deliver on this request immediately. That’s urgent action and real leadership."

The ventilators will be deployed to areas with critical needs, including the tribal nations of Arizona. Ducey stressed how these communities are a priority. 

“Our tribal communities remain top of mind. I’ve been in touch with Navajo President Nez and Vice President Lizer about the need for additional supplies, personnel and ventilators," said the governor. "Arizona is committed to assisting all our tribes and providing all the state and federal resources they need to fight COVID-19 and protect their people."

As he also thanked McSally for her efforts, Ducey said he hopes our state will not ever need the ventilators. "My thanks to Senator Martha McSally for advocating for these ventilators and helping make this happen," he said. "Our goal is that we will never need these ventilators and can eventually send them to other regions of the country, but this action by President Trump and Vice President Pence will help ensure Arizona is prepared for a worst-case scenario.”

According to the Associated Press, the 100 ventilators are a fraction of the 5,000 first approved, and far below the 500 Arizona health officials say is needed. Health Services Department Director Dr. Cara Christ said that Arizona needs 500 ventilators to be ready for a surge in cases expected later in April. At least 340 ventilators would equip St. Luke's Medical Center, a Phoenix hospital that is being reopened for the care of critically ill patients. But without enough ventilators, that can't happen. 

Christ had originally asked federal officials for 5,000 ventilators based on projected need, and the request was approved by federal officials. She revised that request to 500 after it became clear there was no way Arizona would get that many from a shrinking federal stockpile. New York state alone had requested 30,000 and got only 4,000, Christ noted.

“When we heard what New York got in comparison to their request ... we became highly aware that we weren’t going to get those 5,000 ventilators,” she said last week to the Associated Press.

A revised estimate shows the state will need about 1,500 ICU beds with ventilators to treat virus patients, Christ said. The state has 1,500 beds with ventilators already, about a third in use, so it needs to add about 500 more to meet expected demand.

Across Arizona, 3,112 coronavirus cases resulting in 97 deaths were reported as of Friday. A cluster of cases on the Navajo Nation has led tribal officials to order a weekend long lockdown for all residents and visitors.

The state has about 16,900 licensed hospital beds and expects to need 7,000 to 13,000 more to treat virus cases. More than half those added beds will be in existing hospitals that greatly boost capacity. The Army Corps of Engineers has surveyed many other sites for temporary hospitals.

Christ said Flagstaff is the next city that will get a new treatment facility, designed to take patients who no longer need care in an acute hospital.


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