US Navy hospital ships to assist in coronavirus response

USNS Mercy (Photo: US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zach Kreitzer)

The US Navy’s only two hospital ships are being prepared to assist in the response to the current coronavirus pandemic, the US Department of Defense (DoD) said on Wednesday, March 18.

Pentagon chief spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said in a news conference on Wednesday that USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy (pictured) are being prepared for deployment “as needed to assist potentially overwhelmed communities with acute patient care.”

Comfort is now in Norfolk, Virginia, for maintenance, and the navy has been asked to expedite that, Mr Hoffman said, adding that it may take “a little while” for the ship to be ready to deploy. It will then go to New York when its maintenance is complete.

Meanwhile, Mercy is on the West Coast and is ready to go in “days, not weeks,” and where it will go will be determined when it’s ready to sail.

Brigadier General Paul Friedrichs, the Joint Staff surgeon, told reporters that the two ships will be used to take non-coronavirus patients, thus freeing up hospitals on the East and West Coasts to devote their manpower and other resources to treating those who have contracted the disease.

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