California projects 56 percent of population will be infected with coronavirus over 8-week period

California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomA nationwide response from an unusual place: City halls California, Florida, Texas report new single day high coronavirus death tolls Watch live: California Gov. Gavin Newsom holds coronavirus press briefing MORE (D) said in a letter to the Trump administration that 56 percent of the state’s population — 25.5 million people — is projected to be infected with the coronavirus over an eight-week period. 

In the letter, Newsom asked President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeSantis on Florida schools reopening: 'If you can do Walmart,' then 'we absolutely can do schools' NYT editorial board calls for the reopening of schools with help from federal government's 'checkbook' Mueller pens WaPo op-ed: Roger Stone 'remains a convicted felon, and rightly so' MORE to deploy the USNS Mercy hospital ship to the port of Los Angeles until September of this year “to help decompress our current healthcare delivery system in the Los Angeles region in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Jesse Melgar, a spokesman for the governor, specified that the estimate was without mitigating factors.

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“Governor Newsom has been honest about the threat of the virus and its impact on the health and welfare of Californians,” he said in a statement to The Hill. “This projection shows why it’s so critical that Californians take action to slow the spread of the disease – and those mitigation efforts aren’t taken into account in those numbers. The state is deploying every resource at its disposal to meet this challenge, and we continue to ask for the federal government’s assistance in this fight.”

On Thursday the administration said it would send another Navy hospital ship, the Comfort, to the New York City harbor. Also on Thursday, CNN reported that the administration plans to send Mercy to Seattle in the next five to 10 days. Washington is one of the states hit hardest by the virus, with more than 1,887 confirmed cases and 68 deaths.

Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman confirmed later Wednesday afternoon that the Comfort is intended to go to New York and the Mercy's destination is to be determined. However, Hoffman said the maintenance means that it will be weeks before the Comfort is underway.

"They're going to expedite the maintenance that they can and prepare it," Hoffman told reporters at the Pentagon. "That's not a days issue. That's a weeks issue, so it's going to be a little while."

Newsom said that like New York City, Los Angeles is densely populated, making it particularly vulnerable to the spread of disease. 

As of Thursday evening, California reported having more than 950 confirmed cases of the virus and 18 deaths. However, public health officials across the country continue to report a lack of testing kits, making the true number of cases difficult to quantify.

This report was updated on March 19, 7:04 p.m.