A Navy hospital ship in San Diego is deploying Monday to Los Angeles to help relieve hospitals expected to become overburdened by coronavirus patients, the Navy announced.
In a news release, the U.S. Navy 3rd Fleet said the USNS Mercy will treat non-coronavirus patients referred to the ship by hospitals ashore, providing them with “a full spectrum of medical care.”
“This will allow local health professionals to focus on treating COVID-19 patients and for shore-based hospitals to use their Intensive Care Units and ventilators for those patients,” the release said.
The Mercy will leave San Diego with more than 800 Navy medical personnel and support staff aboard, as well as more than 70 civil service mariners.
“#USNSMercy will be getting underway #TODAY in support of the nation’s #COVID19 response efforts. As announced by @realDonaldTrump, the ship will head to Los Angeles,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday tweeted Monday.
#USNSMercy will be getting underway #TODAY in support of the nation’s #COVID19 response efforts. As announced by @realDonaldTrump, the ship will head to Los Angeles. @USNavy @CDC @DeptofDefense https://t.co/a12uYgJrgv— Chief of Naval Operations (@USNavyCNO) March 23, 2020
U.S. officials confirmed Sunday during a White House briefing that the Mercy’s destination will be Los Angeles.
While Washington state has the most confirmed cases of coronavirus on the West Coast, officials said Los Angeles was chosen because California is expected to have the greater need.
“Even though there are more cases right now in Washington, the projected needs for beds in California is five times more that of Washington,” Pete Gaynor, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) administrator, said Sunday at the White House.
At a briefing Monday, Navy officials said the Mercy is scheduled to leave San Diego at 2 p.m. local time Monday. The Mercy is expected to arrive at the port of Los Angeles "within the week" and will be able to treat patients the day after arriving, Capt. John Rotruck, commanding officer of the ship, told reporters at the Pentagon via teleconference.
Despite San Diego's proximity to Los Angeles, the Mercy will take a couple extra days to travel to conduct operations, tests and certifications that must be done at sea before arrival, as well as to allow the crew time to train, Navy officials said.
Once in Los Angeles, the ship will 1,128 active-duty military staffing the medical treatment facility. There will also be 58 reservists who have "self-identified as being members of the clinical community helping their local jurisdiction with COVID-10," said Rear Adm. Tim Weber, commander of Naval Medical Forces Pacific.
The Mercy is prepared to stay in Los Angeles as long as necessary and can go elsewhere after if directed by FEMA, officials said at the briefing.
The U.S. Navy operates two hospital ships, the Mercy and the Comfort, to help with relief efforts during crises, such as Puerto Rico in 2017 after Hurricane Maria. Each ship has a 1,000-bed capacity.
Updated at 3:15 p.m.