SAN PEDRO (CBSLA) — A pair of floating Navy hospital ships will soon be headed to the east and west coasts to help with the coronavirus pandemic.
"We're sending upon request the two hospital ships that are being prepared right now," President Donald Trump said in a Wednesday morning briefing.
One of those ships, USNS Comfort, is based in Virginia and will be sent to New York City.
In a Wednesday letter, Gov. Gavin Newsom requested that its sister ship, USNS Mercy based in San Diego, be stationed at the Port of Los Angeles through Sept. 1 of this year.
"In some parts of our state, our case rate is doubling every four days," Newsom said in the letter. "Moreover, we have community acquired transmission in 23 counties with an increase of 44 community acquired infections in 24 hours. We project that 56% of our population — 25.5 million people — will be infected with the virus over an eight week period."
The United States Naval Institute reported that the hospital ships will help with non-coronavirus medical care that would bog down civilian hospitals — freeing up those hospitals that are needed to care for those affected by the virus.
The floating hospitals are optimized for treating trauma patients rather than infectious diseases. Dr. Marc Kerner, a local surgeon and infectious disease expert, said he believes the ships will help tremendously.
"What we're all really concerned about is the overwhelming nature of this infection and that it could really blow up the hospital systems in the sense that we have so many patients that require intensive care at one time," he said.
Each ship was said to be in the process of bringing aboard active duty and reserve medical personnel. New York has since put out a call for retired doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to create a reserve force of personnel just in case.
Kerner said, if needed, he would be happy to help.
"We're here and we've got a number of physicians that can step right up into that second tier and help out," he said.
The ships were said to be undergoing scheduled maintenance and the Navy was working to identify medical staffing to send the ships out as soon as possible, with a goal of having them in place within a week.
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