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Hospital ship USNS Comfort to deploy to New York within two weeks, Defense Secretary says

Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley speak to reporters at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., March 2, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

The Norfolk-based hospital ship USNS Comfort will deploy to New York within two weeks to provide relief to overcrowded hospitals treating patients infected with the coronavirus, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Tuesday.

The Comfort is one of two, 1,000-bed hospital ships the military is dispatching to help treat adults who are not infected with the virus. The ship’s medical staff will be able to conduct general surgeries, critical care and provide ward care for adults.

The San Diego-based USNS Mercy left port on Monday for Los Angeles. The Comfort is taking longer to get under way because it’s been undergoing maintenance following a recent deployment on a humanitarian mission to Latin America.

The military has not provided a specific date for when the Comfort will get under way or arrive in New York. Military officials had previously said only that the Comfort would be ready in “weeks.”

Esper revealed the most recent timeline during a webcast town hall meeting from the Pentagon.

The Comfort is crewed by civilian mariners, but draws most of its medical staff from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. It’s unclear how many people will deploy aboard the ship.

The Navy said that when the Mercy left San Diego, it did so with more than 800 Navy medical personnel and support staff, and more than 70 civil service mariners. About 60 of the medical staff are reservists.

Following a visit to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth last week, U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria said reservists would be called up to fill vacancies at the naval hospital created by staff deploying aboard the Comfort, and that many people were volunteering to do so.


© 2020 The Virginian-Pilot

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