CORONAVIRUS

Navy Hospital Ship Expected To Assist Coronavirus Relief Efforts In Seattle Area

Mar 19, 2020, 2:41 PM | Updated: Jun 23, 2022, 11:45 pm

The Military Sealift Command (MSC) hospital ship USNS Mercy is seen after arriving February 3, 2005...

The Military Sealift Command (MSC) hospital ship USNS Mercy is seen after arriving February 3, 2005 near Banda Aceh, Sumamtra, Indonesia. (Photo by Gabriel R. Piper/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

(Photo by Gabriel R. Piper/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

(CNN) — A U.S. Navy hospital ship is expected to head to the Seattle area in the next five to ten days, according to a U.S. defense official.

The USNS Mercy is one of two ships being deployed to help respond to the Coronavirus outbreak, though neither will treat patients suffering from the virus.

The ships will be used to treat other illnesses or injuries and free up capacity in civilian hospitals that are expected to be overwhelmed with cases of the virus.

“That is the expectation” the official said. The final destination could always change depending on civilian needs, the official cautioned.

The state of Washington is a hot spot for the virus, with state’s current number of known cases — 1,187 as of Thursday morning — second only to New York state. Washington is where the first US case and the first US death from coronavirus were reported.

The second ship, the USNS Comfort is still weeks away from being deployed to New York. “The Comfort, which is on the East Coast, should be ready in a couple weeks,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday.

Each ship has a capacity for about 1,000 beds but many of their treatment areas are open bays and would therefore be ill-suited to handling potentially contagious coronavirus patients.

In addition to the ships, Esper also said on Wednesday that the Pentagon was prepared to provide field hospitals to state authorities to also help with non-coronavirus patients.

As of Thursday morning, there were at least 10,259 known cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States and 152 deaths from the virus, according to the state and local health agencies, governments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Navy Hospital Ship Expected To Assist Coronavirus Relief Efforts In Seattle Area