You can tell the country is making progress against the novel coronavirus when people start talking about a surplus of ventilators, which are used to help the most seriously ill patients breathe.

It was only a few weeks ago when governors and others were complaining that they could not find enough of the devices. By the end of March, after initially resisting, President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to force companies to build more ventilators.

U.S. manufacturers produce 29,000 ventilators per year in normal times. The president said his administration would make 100,000 of them within 100 days, and if current trends continue, it will miss that goal by only a week.

That’s a “mission accomplished” moment. But the odd thing is that demand for ventilators has gone down sharply in recent weeks — even though the death toll from the virus continues to rise.

“After observing unusually high death rates for coronavirus victims who were put on ventilators, many doctors are using them only as a last resort,” The Associated Press reported.

The AP looked at federal contracts to buy ventilators and estimated that the Department of Health and Human Services will spend $2.9 billion for 198,890 of the machines by the end of this year, at an average cost of $14,600.

There are so many extra ventilators that Trump said last week he may send some of them to other countries. That’s fine, but he and HHS must be careful with their generosity. There’s no telling what will happen in the future, especially if the virus reasserts itself this fall, as some epidemiologists predict.

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