As the need for ventilators for Coronavirus patients continues to grow, one Western New York lawmaker said there's infrastructure here to manufacture more.
He reached out to Tesla Tuesday to ask for help.
"We can do a lot in Western New York. We know how to do these types of things," Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, said.
Ryan sent a letter to Tesla CEO Elon Musk asking him to produce ventilators in the state-funded RiverBend manufacturing facility where the company had been producing its solar roof product. Earlier this month, Tesla temporarily suspended its solar operation due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
"We wanted to remind Elon Musk that the Buffalo factory, it's sitting idle right now but we have a highly skilled workforce who would love to return to that factory to participate in the efforts towards making our healthcare system more robust," Ryan said.
He said it makes sense for the company to produce ventilators in the state that currently needs them most. New York has, by far, the most confirmed cases in the country.
"We know right now we have about a third of the number of ventilators that we need for New York State so we need three times more ventilators and if we could start making ventilators or parts of those ventilators in Buffalo, it would go a long way toward our public health effort," Ryan said.
Musk has been having conversations with healthcare company Medtronic about partnering to produce the equipment.
"I got a response from Tesla already saying, 'We're looking at the supply chain. We want to know how we can impact the supply chain.' So I'm glad to hear that they're engaged more than just their initial press release. They're digging into it. They told us they'll be looking at the Buffalo facility," Ryan said.
The plan could have bipartisan support. Last week, state Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy suggested the same thing.
Ryan said it shouldn't stop with Tesla either.
"I've reached out to the manufacturers association to say, 'Let's take stock of all our manufacturers," he said. "Who's in the business that could switch into making protective gear for nurses and hospital workers? Who's in the business of the machine shops that could switch into making pieces for ventilators?"
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said the state currently has access to about 6,000 ventilators.