Hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) arrived in Los Angeles on Friday, bringing additional beds and medical professionals to help alleviate the stress on the local healthcare system.
Mercy’s mission is focused on treating non-COVID-19 cases so Los Angeles-area hospitals can dedicate their facilities to screening and treating individuals with the virus.
“The men and women of the USNS Mercy and the United States Navy are honored to be here in Los Angeles supporting FEMA, the state of California, and the city in their ongoing COVID-19 relief efforts,” Rear Adm. John Gumbleton, the commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, said in a statement released Friday.
National and local medical officials expect the number of cases in the state to increase dramatically, potentially overwhelming the capacity of local hospitals to treat both COVID-19 cases while also providing care for other medical emergencies.
“Even though there are more cases right now in Washington, the projected need for beds in California is five times more that of Washington,” FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor said during a March 21 media briefing.
As of Thursday afternoon, California had 3,006 positive cases of COVID-19 and 65 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health. Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 68,440 cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday afternoon.
In Norfolk, the Navy continued preparing USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) to depart for New York, where the number of COVID-19 cases is quickly escalating. Comfort is expected to provide a similar service, treating non-COVID-19 cases so local hospitals can dedicate their resources to caring for patients with COVID-19. Comfort is expected to depart Norfolk on Saturday.
Mercy’s 1,000 hospital beds and medical staff of about 1,100 medical personnel will serve as a referral hospital, providing medical care to patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals, according to a statement from U.S. 3rd Fleet.
Nine of Mercy’s 12 operating rooms will be staffed, but the ship does not plan to deliver babies, Capt. John Rotruck, the commanding officer of Mercy, said during a media briefing Monday before the ship departed its homeport of San Diego. “We are not going to be doing obstetrics care or pediatric care onboard the ship.”
Mercy’s active duty medical staff was pulled from eight West Coast military treatment facilities. The medical staff also includes Navy reservists who are not members of a clinical community helping their local jurisdictions with COVID-19 treatment, according to the Navy.