The Margin: Elon Musk says the ‘panic will cause more harm than the virus,’ but he’s ready to help out — ‘if needed’

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Earlier this week, Elon Musk said the “coronavirus panic is dumb” and “if we over-allocate medical resources to corona, it will come at expense of treating other illnesses.”

For the most part, that take didn’t go over well, as the numbers continue to mount across the United States. Two days later and the Tesla TSLA, +12.25% boss hasn’t backed off his stance.

“My guess is that the panic will cause more harm than the virus, if that hasn’t happened already,” he tweeted Wednesday night, with the latest tally from Johns Hopkins University showing there are now 5,702 people who have tested positive in the U.S. with at least 94 deaths.

He is, however, ready to pitch in. After one of his millions of followers implored him “to stop being an idiot about this” and do his part, Musk responded with this tweet:

While some cheered the tweet, others took issue with the “if needed” part.

“Look to Italy. They have modern health care like the U.S. and are literally decided who gets a ventilator and who dies,” one cancer doctor wrote. “If you and your team can make ventilators, start ASAFP to save lives. Trump and his team are not competent to deal with this.”

And Bill Ackman, the Wall Street billionaire who stole headlines on Wednesday with his emotional interview on CNBC, chimed in with some praise.

“Thank you @elonmusk for answering the call,” he wrote. “There are already ventilator shortages. Please ramp up production now as thousands more will be needed. Thank you on behalf of all of us!”

Not everybody was quick with praise, however. Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight’s editor-in-chief, called for action. “There’s a shortage now, how many ventilators you making @elonmusk?” he tweeted.

That tweet was meant with countless examples of hospitals in need of ventilators. Read a newspaper please Elon just one newspaper,” one follower urged.

Tesla isn’t the first auto maker to offer help. General Motors GM, +0.03% and Ford F, -4.31% are both already in talks with the White House over doing their part in the crisis.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Musk’s vow to lend a hand during a crisis is reminiscent of when he said he was sending engineers to Thailand to help save 12 members of a soccer team and their coach from a flooded cave. While mostly hailed as a well-intentioned effort, his submarine wasn’t involved in the rescue.

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