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Navy hospital ship to deploy in 5 to 10 days to help with coronavirus relief

Navy hospital ship to deploy in 5 to 10 days to help with coronavirus relief
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Two Navy hospital ships will not deploy for at least another week or more to help relieve hospital systems overwhelmed by the influx of new coronavirus cases in New York City and the West Coast, defense officials confirmed on Thursday. 

The Trump administration on Wednesday announced that the USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort are preparing to deploy to help take on patients not infected by COVID-19 and free up hospitals to treat those that have the virus.

But the Defense Department is five to ten days from deploying the Mercy from its home port in San Diego to an undisclosed location on the West Coast, Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell said in a statement to The Hill.

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And the Comfort, which is currently undergoing maintenance, will be “ready to sail to New York in about two weeks’ time,” he added.  

CNN reported on Thursday that Mercy is expected to head to the Seattle area — which has been one of the hardest hit U.S. locations for the virus — though defense officials would not confirm the location to reporters

“The location for Mercy has not been determined but I can tell you that the goal is to have Mercy sailing out of San Diego harbor next week,” Navy surgeon general Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham told reporters at the Pentagon via teleconference.

He added that the ships’ core staff reported Thursday to ready the vessels, and that the service is currently working with the Defense Health Agency to identify where the rest of the medical staff will come from to serve on the ships. 

As of Thursday evening, there were more than 13,000 known coronavirus cases in the United States and 176 deaths, including 68 in Washington state and 22 in New York.

As the coronavirus spreads throughout the country, fears of hospitals being overwhelmed by mounting patients has prompted more calls for the military to step in and offer its medical abilities and supplies. 

In addition to providing the ships, Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Trump campaign's use of military helicopter raises ethics concerns | Air Force jets intercept aircraft over Trump rally | Senators introduce bill to expand visa screenings Trump campaign event use of Marine Corps helicopter raises ethics questions The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Smart or senseless for Biden to spend time in Georgia, Iowa? MORE announced Tuesday that the Pentagon would give the Department of Health and Human Services 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 specialized ventilators.