USNS Mercy Deploys to Los Angeles in Coronavirus Response

SAN DIEGO, CA - MARCH 21: Steve King, a Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southwest forklift driver, prepares to deliver pallets during a supply load aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) at Naval Base San Diego, March 21, 2020. Mercy is preparing to deploy in support …
Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Mike Jones - U.S. Navy via Getty Images

The Navy on Monday deployed a massive hospital ship to Los Angeles to help local authorities deal with the strain of battling the coronavirus, at the direction of President Trump.

The USNS Mercy will not be taking coronavirus patients, but can use its 1,000 hospital beds to help free up more beds in Los Angeles should they be needed for coronavirus patients.

The ship’s commander, Navy Capt. Jonathan Rotruck, said during a press briefing Monday:

The Mercy brings a team of medical professionals, medical equipment, and supplies, all of which will act in essence, as a relief valve for local civilian hospitals in the Los Angeles area so that local health professionals can better focus on COVID-19 cases.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who made the request for the Mercy to dock in Los Angeles, praised the president for his speedy help.

“President Trump has approved our request to deploy the #USNSMercy to Los Angeles. Grateful for the quick response and partnership, @realDonaldTrump,” he tweeted.

The ship is not only equipped with 1,000 hospital beds, it also has 50 emergency room stations, 12 operating rooms, and 4 X-ray rooms. It will carry 1,128 active duty Navy medical staff, about 60 Navy reservists, and a small number of contractors to operate the ship.

Navy officials said the ship would take “within a week” to arrive in Los Angeles from San Diego.

“We will be ready on arrival to support FEMA, state and local agencies’ efforts to protect the health of the American people in this whole-of-government approach directed by the president of the United States,” Rotruck said.

He said the ship will dock in Los Angeles for as long as it is needed, or assigned elsewhere. The ship will pull into the Port of Los Angelea and transport patients by ground onto the ship, he said.

“We will stay there for as long as it makes sense,” said Navy Capt. Dan Cobian, the mission’s commander.

According to the County of Los Angeles Public Health, there are, as of Monday, 536 cases and seven deaths in Los Angeles County.

Navy officials said the crew will be taking proactive measures to make sure that anyone coming aboard is properly screened for COVID-19.

Navy Rear Adm. Timothy H. Weber, commander of the Naval Medical Corps Pacific and director of the Medical Service Corps, said during the briefing, “We are honored to answer the call in a time of need.”

“Today is a big day for the Mercy, Navy medicine and our national response to the coronavirus,” Rotruck added.

The president last week directed the Mercy and a sister hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, to deploy in response to the coronavirus crisis.

The Comfort is based in Norfolk, Virginia, and is expected to arrive in New York in early April.


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