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A U.S. Navy ship just became L.A.’s largest hospital amid pandemic


LOS ANGELES (KTLA) – A U.S. Navy hospital ship arrived at the Port of Los Angeles Friday, bringing 1,000 hospital beds to help local hospitals bracing for a crush of patients as novel coronavirus cases surge in the county.

The USNS Mercy will treat non-COVID-19 patients, providing relief for hospitals to be able to better focus on treating and isolating those infected with the virus.

Since deploying from a San Diego base Tuesday, hundreds of staff aboard the floating hospital spent days preparing and sterilizing equipment.

With a crew of 800 and its own 12 fully-equipped operating rooms, laboratories, pharmacy and radiological equipment, the USNS Mercy will become the largest hospital in the city.

Officials said patients will be transported to the ship from area medical centers.

“This is not intended to be a service site or a hospital site that you would come to for an emerging medical need or in the event of a medical emergency,” Port of L.A. Police Chief Tom Gazsi said during a news conference Thursday. “Please respond to your local hospitals where you can receive medical treatment as you would under normal circumstances.”

The ship is equipped with a helicopter deck capable of landing large military helicopters and side ports to take on patients at sea, according to the U.S. Navy.

The USNS Mercy wasn’t always a hospital.

The ship used to be a San Clemente-class super tanker before it was converted in the ’80s and is usually docked in San Diego with a small crew, waiting to be activated.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who requested the hospital ship from President Donald Trump, had announced last week that the federal government is sending eight field medical units into the state to provide thousands of extra hospital beds. The governor also said the state is spending $30 million to lease Seton Medical Center in Daly City and St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles’ Westlake district.

But even with the arrival of the USNS Mercy, local governments have said that many more hospital beds are still needed.

Newsom said earlier this week that the state will need 50,000 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients.

California had over 4,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 83 deaths Friday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In Los Angeles County, novel coronavirus cases spiked to 1,216 Thursday from 799 the day before as the nation’s most populous county stepped up its testing for the respiratory illness that had killed at least 21 people countywide.

“If this rate of increase continues, in six days we will be where New York is today, the same number of cases per capita as they are struggling through,” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday during a news conference.

A similar U.S. hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, is set to arrive to New York’s aid within the next few days.

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