LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — USNS Mercy, a Navy hospital ship, is on its way to the Port of Los Angeles after departing from San Diego Monday afternoon as part of the state's coronavirus response.
When the ship arrives, the staff on board will treat non-coronavirus patients in need of care. Its mission is to lift the burden on local hospitals so they can concentrate on COVID-19 patients.
"The biggest hospital in L.A. is about to land right at the Port of L.A.," Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
The Navy's top medical authorities told CBS News that the staff of 800 active duty medical personnel and support staff are coming from Navy hospitals and know the USNS Mercy.
There are 1,000 beds on the ship and the Navy said it plans to staff nine of the ships operating rooms. Navy officials said patients would come to them as hospital transfers.
They're prepared to offer a wide range of services including critical and urgent care for adults. They will not be providing obstetric and pediatric care.
"We currently have 416 hospitals in the state of California," Gov. Gavin Newsom said. "We have just shy of 75,000 licensed beds. We need an additional 50,000 beds in our system."
The move came after Newsom wrote a letter to President Donald Trump last week that said the state expects more than 50% of the population to contract the disease over an eight week period.
Trump and other administration officials said the ship would be stationed in Los Angeles after originally being slated to go to the Seattle area.
"Even though there are more cases right now in Washington, the projected needs for beds in California is five times more," a FEMA official said.
Navy officials said the ship will have coronavirus tests onboard, and if any patient tests positive, they will be transferred to a local hospital with a COVID-19 unit.
The ship is expected to arrive later this week and will remain at the Port of Los Angeles as long as necessary.
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