General Motors and the medical tech company Ventec Life Systems will be able to deliver new ventilators to the Federal Emergency Management Agency this week as part of their joint effort to provide necessary supplies during the coronavirus pandemic, their CEOs said Tuesday.
GM CEO Mary Barra and Ventec CEO Chris Kiple said in an interview with NBC News senior business correspondent Stephanie Ruhle that the work is ahead of schedule.
“It’s great American industry and innovation, but the real fuel for it is our people,” Barra said. “Many of these people have been working virtually around the clock, 20-hour days, to make sure we can start building ventilators as quickly as possible.”
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Barra said that the workers are being compensated and that there are plans to recognize them further once the pandemic is over.
Under the partnership, which was announced March 27, Ventec moved its ventilator production into GM’s Kokomo, Indiana, plant. The companies received the first contract for ventilators under the Defense Production Act, which President Donald Trump invoked in March.
They plan to build 30,000 ventilators for around $490 million to add to the national stockpile and aid in fighting the pandemic. The first ventilators will be ready this week ahead of schedule, and a total of 6,132 will be available by June 1. The rest will be delivered by the end of August.
“We have hundreds of people here from General Motors,” Kiple said. “We are actively busy making progress, building ventilators right now. We have teams that will be here through the night actually making progress.”
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Barra said safety precautions the plant is taking are based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. They include wearing masks, conducting temperature checks, responding to questionnaires for COVID-19 symptoms and disinfecting the facilities.
“We will stay very focused on safety in the operations today, because we are so grateful for the people who are working,” Barra said. “This will then help us as we get back to a point where we can bring car production back online. We’ll take all of these lessons learned, all of these precautions, and that, I believe, is how we will start up when we get the right approvals.”