Pentagon to deploy field hospitals to New York, Seattle

Pentagon to deploy field hospitals to New York, Seattle
© Greg Nash

The Defense Department is preparing to deploy field hospitals to New York City and Seattle later this week, Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperPence reverses position barring coronavirus task force members from appearing on CNN: report Pence bars coronavirus task force members from appearing on CNN: report Trip that led to acting Navy secretary's resignation cost 3K: reports MORE announced Monday.

“Right now, I anticipate sending a [field] hospital to Seattle and a hospital to New York City,” Esper told reporters at the Pentagon, adding, “my aim is to get them out this week.”

He said five such expeditionary units had been given “prepare to deploy orders,” and the Pentagon is looking to send them to other locations as needed.

ADVERTISEMENT

He said the deployments will include the hospital, equipment and medical professionals. They will be sent once the Federal Emergency Management Agency validates the move.  

Washington state has the most confirmed cases of coronavirus on the West Coast while New York has the most such cases on the East Coast. 

The Pentagon’s other efforts to help with the outbreak include deploying a Navy hospital ship in San Diego to Los Angeles to help relieve medical facilities expected to become overburdened by coronavirus patients.

The USNS Mercy will treat non-coronavirus patients referred to the ship by hospitals on shore, and it is expected to arrive at the port of Los Angeles "within the week,” Capt. John Rotruck, commanding officer of the ship, told reporters at the Pentagon via teleconference later on Monday. 

The USNS Comfort will deploy to New York City to carry out a similar mission but is not expected to leave its port in Virginia until next week.

Esper also announced Monday that the Pentagon’s health protection level had been upgraded to its second highest setting, putting more restrictions on entering the building.

ADVERTISEMENT

As of Monday morning, 133 service members had tested positive for the coronavirus, as had 44 civilian employees, 35 dependents and 31 contractors, with one contractor death Saturday.

Esper said he has not been tested for the coronavirus but was monitoring his health. 

He also for the first time acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic may affect military readiness down the line.  

“If this pandemic continues at the scale and scope of what some are predicting, over time you could start seeing an impact on readiness. ... But nothing to which I fear impacts our mission readiness to conduct our national missions,” he said.