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While few details were given, city officials said they are in talks to convert the ship into a medical facility in anticipation of a surge in COVID-19 patients that could overwhelm land hospitals in the weeks ahead, the Long Beach Post reported.
“The City is coordinating plans regarding care facilities and more to ensure that we remain prepared to serve the needs of our community,” Long Beach officials said in a statement. “The Queen Mary remains in consideration, and we will have a plan to announce in the future.”
The historic Queen Mary cruise ship has been moored in California’s Long Beach Harbor since it officially retired from transatlantic crossings more than 50 years ago.
The British-built vessel is owned by the city, where it has been moored since its retirement in 1967 to serve as a museum, hotel and tourist attraction. There are more than 300 rooms aboard the ship.
The Queen Mary would become the latest floating medical center to join the coast-to-coast battle against the coronavirus following the deployment of two U.S. Navy ships last week.
The USNS Comfort arrived in New York City harbor last week on the front lines of the growing pandemic, while its sister ship, the Mercy, was docked in the Port of Los Angeles. The two ships can each provide up to 1,000 hospital beds for non-coronavirus patients to free up space in land hospitals for those with the disease.
While the long-retired Queen Mary primarily served as a transatlantic ocean liner during its active lifetime, this wouldn’t be the first time the ship has been called into action.
On the outset of World War II, the vessel was converted into a troopship, dubbed the “Grey Ghost” for its high speed, and often ferried as many as 15,000 Allied soldiers.
The Queen Mary’s possible role in the coronavirus battle comes as Long Beach officials announced it will build a temporary field hospital with 100 beds at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, the paper reported.
“We are doing everything in our power to prepare for the medical and hospital surge in the weeks ahead,” Mayor Robert Garcia said Friday. “We’ve added hospital and clinic capacity by hundreds of beds and we will continue to do so.”
The virus has so far sickened 198 people in Long Beach as the state total climbed to more than 12,000 on Saturday.