Alibaba (and Amazon) sell lots of "portable oxygen concentrators" in bulk for $200 - $300 a piece, e.g this one. These seem to differ from medical-grade oxygen concentrators (which you need a prescription to buy) in that they deliver less oxygen at less purity, i.e. medical-grade oxygen concentrators can provide >5L/min of oxygen at > 85% purity, whereas one of these goes from 1L/min at 92% to 5L/min at 30%.
Here's a case for why buying one or more could be life-saving, which I would love LessWrong's opinion on. I think any of these points could be quite wrong.
- Some sources I've consulted suggest that something like ~7% of infected patients must go to the hospital, are put on low-flow (<5L/min) ventilation, and then recover.
- The source above suggests that this could be a life-or-death difference.
- Seems plausible that one Alibaba oxygen concentrator would be enough for some patients.
- In a pinch, seems like you could put several of these together with some tubing to make a 5L / min concentrator at high purity.
- Ventilators are much more limiting than oxygen, but if hospitals become absurdly overwhelmed, it seems plausible that even oxygen access will be limiting.
- These are produced in China, which has (for now) enough health-care capacity to deal with its patients, so you may not be taking away medical supplies from people who use them otherwise. I worry that they will be used by more legitimate institutions in the future, but maybe they can just be donated to those institutions if that seems to be the case. Alibaba also lists these as "Hot New March 2020" products, suggesting they might be increasing supply to meet demand.
Even if this is a good idea, I'm not sure if it's cost-effective over other life-saving interventions, but it seems plausible that you could convince someone who wouldn't otherwise give money to buy them (e.g., they could buy one if they were particularly concerned for a family member and then donate it as necessary).