A severe coronavirus infection may impair breathing to the point that mechanical ventilation is necessary. At the peak of the epidemic, there may be an insufficient supply of intensive-care until beds and ventilators to meet this need.

With cancellations of elective surgery, many operating rooms in the state of Washington are empty. Each operating room is equipped with an anesthesia machine designed for use during surgery. These machines have built-in or add-on ventilators that also can be used to ventilate critically-ill nonsurgical patients.

Every effort must be made to acquire new ICU ventilators as soon as possible. In the meantime, I urge Gov. Jay Inslee and his strategic planning staff to take whatever action is needed to ensure that this option can be used without delay.

Brian Ready, M.D., Redmond, University of Washington professor, Department of Anesthesiology, retired