The USNS Mercy hospital ship sailed from San Diego on Monday to provide relief to Los Angeles-area hospitals overburdened by the coronavirus pandemic.
“This global crisis demands a whole-of-government response and we are ready to support,” said Capt. John Rotruck, Mercy’s commanding officer, in a statement from the Navy.
Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said in a video update Monday that the Mercy will “take some of the pressure off our landside hospitals so they can focus on curbing and eradicating this virus.”
The Mercy departed Naval Base San Diego for the Port of LA with more than 800 Navy medical personnel and support staff and over 70 civil service mariners on board, the Navy said.
Civil service mariners operate and navigate the ship, load and offload mission cargo, assist with repairs to mission equipment, and provide essential services to keep the hospital ship up and running.
Seroka told KABC later Monday, “We’re working very closely with the United States Navy setting up the time and location for the U.S. Navy ship Mercy to come in. That will be a thousand hospital beds that will enter Los Angeles and are meant to treat non-COVID-19 patients.”
Seroka added that “precautions will be up and down from the Department of Defense to what we do with our allied agencies on the ground here at the port to make sure it’s a safe and healthy medical environment.”
President Donald Trump said last Wednesday the Mercy would be deployed somewhere along the West Coast. California Gov. Gavin Newsom sent the president a letter dated Thursday asking that the ship be dispatched to the Port of LA.
Newsom said the state’s healthcare system had been significantly impacted by the rapid increase in confirmed coronavirus cases.
“We project that roughly 56% of our population — 25.5 million people — will be infected with the virus over an eight-week period,” he said.
Newsom said the Mercy would “help decompress the health care delivery system to allow the Los Angeles region to ensure that it has the ability to address critical acute needs, such as heart attacks and strokes or vehicle accidents, in addition to the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases.”
Washington Gov. Jay Islee also asked Trump to send the Mercy to his state.
In his letter, also dated Thursday, Islee asked the president to consider the area that “will have its medical system challenged the most, at the earliest point. Unfortunately, the available data suggests the Puget Sound region in Washington will be the first medical system severely challenged.”
He wrote, “In any assessment, the Washington state system will be challenged much earlier than other states, including California. When comparing the counties comprising the Bay Area to those counties making up the Puget Sound region, there are nine times as many deaths from COVID-19 in the Puget Sound. Similarly, there are over double the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the Puget Sound compared to the Bay Area.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last Wednesday that the president was deploying the USNS Comfort to New York Harbor.
The Comfort, with 12 operating rooms and 1,000 hospital beds, is being refitted at its homeport of Norfolk, Virginia.
Trump said during his coronavirus task force update Monday that the Comfort would be deployed to New York in the next “three to four weeks.”