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President Trump announced that he will be traveling on Saturday to Norfolk, Va. to send off a Navy hospital ship headed to the New York City Harbor to help hospitals in the country’s largest city deal with the crush of patients amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The USNS Comfort is slated to depart from Naval Station Norfolk this weekend after undergoing a speedy maintenance – three weeks ahead of schedule – and arrive in New York at Pier 90 on Monday.
“I’ll kiss it goodbye,” Trump said Thursday during a press briefing from the White House coronavirus task force.
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The Comfort – a 1,000 bed medical ship – is heading to New York to aid hospitals throughout the New York metropolitan region as they deal with a surge of patients dealing with the coronavirus. The naval ship will not treat patients suffering from COVID-19, but instead will serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has warned that the virus is putting major stress on New York state hospitals, and that the state’s hospital system only has 53,000 beds. For days, state and federal officials have weighed how to create additional space for the expected influx of patients in the coming days and weeks due to the virus.
“We are waging war on this virus using every financial, scientific, medical, pharmaceutical, and military resource to halt its spread and protect our citizens,” Trump said on Thursday.
The Comfort was in port in Norfolk undergoing repairs after a six-month tour in South America and was slated to be ready to arrive in New York until “mid April” at the earliest. But top Pentagon officials said they expedited measures to ready the vessel.
New York is currently the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., with more than 33,000 confirmed cases in the state and another 4,400 in nearby New Jersey.
The top response coordinator for the White House’s coronavirus task force, Dr. Deborah Birx, warned New Yorkers earlier this week that they should isolate themselves from others if they have left the city for an area with fewer infections.
Her message was reiterated by Vice President Mike Pence, who said the federal government is dealing with New York as “a high-risk area” and will continue to surge resources to the region. Pence said that public health officials are seeing one infection for every 1,000 people in the New York area compared to 0.1 or 0.2 per 1,000 people in places like Washington state – where the first major outbreak occurred in the U.S.
“Take the guidelines that we’ve issued and avoid nonessential travel,” Pence added.
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Another Navy hospital ship, the USNS Mercy, with 800 staff on board, is now en route to Los Angeles to help relieve the strain coronavirus is putting on the area’s hospital system.
The USNS Mercy, which departed Monday morning from San Diego, will “serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals, and will provide a full spectrum of medical care to include critical and urgent care for adults,” the Navy said in a statement.
The Mercy originally was set to head to Seattle before receiving orders to go to Los Angeles instead.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom sent a letter to President Trump Thursday “requesting the immediate deployment of the USNS Mercy Hospital Ship to the Port of Los Angeles through September 1, 2020.”
Fox News’ Brooke Singman and Greg Norman contributed to this report.