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“It’s stocked up to the gills. Right up to the top,” the president said as he exited the White House Saturday for the send-off ceremony. “We’re going to send that up to New York four weeks ahead of schedule.”
Trump spoke with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Saturday morning about the response and also granted his request for four additional medical response sites in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx that should have 4,000 additional beds, Cuomo said earlier. The USNS Comfort should arrive in New York on Monday with about 750 beds.
“It is loaded up with everything,” Trump said before departing for Norfolk Naval Station.
The USNS Comfort will sail to the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak in New York to ease the burden on distressed New York area hospitals responding to the growing level of patients infected with the novel coronavirus.
United States Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort is seen during its mission in the coast of Riohacha, Colombia November 27, 2018.
Over 1,200 medical personnel will be on board who “will bring to bear the skills, care, and compassion needed to wage this fight against an invisible enemy,” the White House said in a statement.
“These doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, x-ray technicians, orderlies, and other medical staff will augment and support New York City’s medical community and conserve hospital capacity by treating some non-COVID-19 patients aboard the USNS Comfort,” the White House said.
Patients not infected with COVID-19 will receive care aboard the hospital ship, so beds in New York City hospitals can be freed up for the wave of coronavirus patients needing urgent help.
Trump already deployed the USNS Mercy hospital ship from the Naval Station in San Diego. The ship arrived in Los Angeles on Friday to “serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients” who are currently hospitalized on land.
The sister ships were built in the 1970s and originally deployed as oil tankers before being converted to hospital ships in the 1980s and delivered to the Navy.
While both vessels have a history of humanitarian responses — Comfort was deployed for the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Maria — the White House framed their latest assignments as among the most important.
“As the USNS Comfort weighs anchor and leaves Norfolk Naval Station, home to the most powerful fleet in the world, she does so to embark on one of the most important assignments of her storied career—serving the American people in this great hour of need,” the White House statement said.
New York has been hardest hit by the virus with 52,318 cases and 728 deaths as of Saturday.
Fox News’ Travis Fedschun contributed to this report.