The German government just placed an order for 10,000 mechanical ventilators. What’s the U.S. government doing about a potential shortage here? Not much, it seems. President Trump alluded to the matter in a press conference but did not spell out any plans…

“We could increase production five-fold in a 90- to 120-day period,” says Chris Kiple, chief executive of Ventec Life Systems, a Bothell, Wash. firm that makes ventilators used in hospitals, homes and ambulances. He’d have to tool up production lines, train assemblers and testers and get parts. Accelerating the parts delivery might be the toughest task, he says.

The ventilator industry is getting a burst of desperate orders from China and Italy. The U.S. hasn’t seen that yet, although manufacturers are bracing for it. “The time for action by the government is now,” says Kiple. “[Covid] is most likely to get worse next fall.”