A San Diego-based Navy hospital ship will treat non-coronavirus patients in Los Angeles to relieve local hospitals amid the area's surge of coronavirus patients, President Trump said Sunday.
USNS Mercy -- one of the Navy's two 1,000-bed hospital ships -- departed from Naval Station San Diego on Monday, March 23. Over 800 Navy medical personnel and support staff, and more than 70 civil service mariners will be aboard the ship.
"The ship will serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals, and will provide a full spectrum of medical care to include critical and urgent care for adults," the U.S. Navy said.
Mercy's support will allow local hospitals to focus on treating COVID-19 patients with their intensive care units and ventilators, according to the Navy.
"The Department of Defense has been given direction to dispatch it to Los Angeles immediately. DOD has advised Mercy can get into position within a week or less of today’s order,” FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor said Sunday.
"We are honored to answer the call in this time of need," said Rear Admiral Tim Weber on Monday. "We are as the Mercy says, 'Steaming to Assist.'"
Though Mercy’s primary mission is to provide an acute surgical medical facility to the U.S. military to support expeditionary warfare, its secondary mission is to provide full hospital services to support U.S. disaster relief and humanitarian operations worldwide, the Navy said.
"Enthusiasm is very high for this mission. This is exactly what Navy medicine trains to do and we are ready to execute," said Captain John Rotruck, Commanding Officer of USNS Mercy's Medical Treatment Facility.
The Navy is also taking proactive measures to ensure patients coming aboard do not have COVID-19, Rotruck said.
As for the arrival date, the Navy said Mercy would be ready for service in Los Angeles sometime this week.
Governor Gavin Newsom had called on the President to send the ship to the Port of Los Angeles. The ship was possibly headed to Seattle prior to the announcement.
"Even though there are more cases right now in Washington, the projected need for beds in California is five times more that of Washington," Gaynor added.
Photos: About the USNS Mercy, the Navy’s Floating Hospital Deploying to the Port of LA
The other ship, USNS Comfort, is based in Norfolk, Virginia, and will soon set up in the New York City area.
Before Trump's announcement, New York Governor Andrew 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.
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.