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California Energy Company Pivots to Refurbishing Ventilators 

Joe Tavi, Bloom Energy senior director of manufacturing, holds a refurbished ventilator as he kneels beside fuel cells, April 1, 2020, in Sunnyvale, Calif.

A California hydrogen fuel cell company is now repairing and updating old ventilators, answering a challenge by the state to address a shortage of the life-saving equipment needed to help coronavirus patients breathe.

Bloom Energy manufacturing director Joe Tavi told the Associated Press news agency state officials reached out to the Silicon Valley firm asking for its help in refurbishing old ventilators the state had on hand.

Tavi said he downloaded a 300-page operating manual for the ventilators, and his co-workers developed a plan to fix the machines.

Since then, the company has fixed more than 400 ventilators and averages about 100 a day.

California Governor Gavin Newson says the state — with a population of about 40 million people — needs about 10,000 ventilators. Nationwide, the Society of Critical Care Medicine tells AP there could be a need for as many as 900,000 ventilators, while only about 200,000 are currently available.

Other U.S. companies, such as garment and automobile manufacturers, have been shifting their focus to address the shortage of medical gear and protective equipment due to the coronavirus pandemic.