Floating hospitals support U.S. cities fighting coronavirus

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By Leigh Hartman 

America is meeting the increased medical needs of its citizens in a unique way. Two U.S. Navy hospital ships, the USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort, are now taking on civilian patients while docked at the ports of Los Angeles and New York.

This expanded hospital capacity is part of the government’s “whole-of-America approach” to fighting the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19).

“We are marshaling the full power of the American nation — economic, scientific, medical and military — to vanquish the virus,” President Trump said at the March 28 launch of the USNS Comfort.

Donald Trump talking at lectern with ship docked behind him (© Patrick Semansky/AP Images)
President Trump in Norfolk, Virginia, before sending the fully equipped USNS Comfort to New York. Defense Secretary Mark Esper is at right. (© Patrick Semansky/AP Images)

Each ship is equipped with 1,000 hospital beds, a full complement of medical staff, operating rooms, advanced equipment and medical supplies. More than 180 Navy Reserve medical professionals volunteered to serve their fellow citizens in need.

The United States has previously deployed the hospital ships to help foreign civilians with both disaster and humanitarian relief. For example, the USNS Mercy cared for victims of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, and the USNS Comfort helped Haitians following the 2010 earthquake there.

Ship sitting at port at sunrise (© APU GOMES/AFP/Getty Images)
The USNS Mercy, docked in Los Angeles, California, can support 1,200 medical personnel. (© APU GOMES/AFP/Getty Images)

Trump deployed the hospital ships to California and New York because these U.S. states are facing COVID-19 outbreaks that are among the largest in the United States and local hospitals are concerned about becoming overwhelmed.

“We will stop at nothing to protect … the health of the people of our country in their hour of need,” Trump said.

The USNS Mercy is deployed to Los Angeles and the USNS Comfort is deployed to New York City. Each ship will ease pressure on local hospitals by taking in non­-COVID­-19 patients.

“Every American should be proud of the incredible spirit our country has brought to this effort” against the coronavirus, Trump said March 26. “Citizens from all walks of life have come together to turn the tide in this battle.”

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