An electrical engineer from Silicon Valley claimed via Twitter that he could supply the state of New York with ventilators to help overwhelmed hospitals in need. Despite him having no background in supplying medical equipment, he was awarded a $69 million contract to supply ventilators to the state. Those ventilators never arrived.
BuzzFeed reports that in March, Yaron Oren-Pines replied to a tweet from President Trump demanding that General Motors “START MAKING VENTILATORS NOW!” In his reply, Oren-Pines claimed to be the answer to New York’s ventilator needs.
“We can supply ICU Ventilators, invasive and noninvasive. Have someone call me URGENT,” he tweeted. Three days later, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order paying him $69.1 million for 1,450 ventilators—triple the price of what high-end ventilators typically cost.
A state official told BuzzFeed that the deal with Oren-Pines was made at the “direct recommendation” of the White House coronavirus task force. Nearly a month after the deal was struck, not a single ventilator has arrived and New York has terminated its contract with Oren-Pines and is now trying to get all of its money back.
Cuomo’s senior advisor Rich Azzopardi said the deal with Oren-Pines was born out of the state’s desperate need for medical supplies and equipment amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“We had no choice but to overturn every rock to find ventilators and other needed equipment,” Azzopardi said. “States were forced to fend for themselves to purchase lifesaving supplies to combat a global pandemic and with all modeling showing a more severe spread of this virus with more hospitalizations and more fatalities.”
As for the man who seemingly took advantage of a global pandemic, he isn’t interested in answering any questions. According to BuzzFeed, Oren-Pines responded to a phone request for comment by saying, “neither me nor my company is providing any comment on this.” He then hung up the phone. It’s unclear how much money New York has been able to recover from Oren-Pines or whether he will face consequences for his failure to hold up his end of the bargain.