Two Navy hospital ships, one homeported in San Diego, California and the other in Norfolk, Virginia, will be sent to ports where they can assist overwhelmed hospitals amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, U.S. President Trump said Wednesday.
The two Mercy-class hospital ships, USNS Mercy based in San Diego, and USNS Comfort may be deployed in the next week to parts of the country in need of extra hospital beds and other medical resources, the president said in the White House briefing with the Coronavirus Task Force.
"The Comfort and Mercy will not deploy to treat COVID patients, but will be made available to assist with treatment of other patients in coastal locations where local health professionals are necessarily focused on a large number of COVID cases," The U.S. Navy confirmed in a statement to NBC 7.
Trump said one of the two ships may depart for New York but "we haven't made the final determination of where it's going to go."
Before Trump's announcement, Cuomo said he and the president had discussed sending the "floating hospital" to New York harbor. Cuomo said the state's ability to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, which he expects to reach its peak in 45 days, depends on federal help.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said the state may need 37,000 ICU beds and 110,000 hospital beds at the peak of the crisis. That dwarfs the state's existing capacity: 3,000 ICU beds and 53,000 hospital beds.
The two ships each have about 1,000 rooms and 12 fully-equipped operating rooms, digital radiological services, a medical laboratory, a pharmacy, an optometry lab, a CAT-scan and two oxygen-producing plants, according to the U.S. navy. They are typically deployed to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
The U.S. Navy told NBC 4 New York in a statement that it was still working on scheduled maintenance and finding staff to deploy, suggesting it won't arrive for a few weeks.