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Navy's USNS Comfort hospital ship to arrive in NYC within weeks

Supplies and personnel are loaded aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., on Tuesday. Photo by Joshua D/ Sheppard/U.S. Navy 
Supplies and personnel are loaded aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., on Tuesday. Photo by Joshua D/ Sheppard/U.S. Navy 

March 24 (UPI) -- The Navy's massive floating hospital is due to arrive in New York City within the next "couple of weeks" to aid with coronavirus response, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper confirmed this week.

In a Monday press briefing Esper told reporters the USNS Comfort would head to New York City "for the same purpose" as the USNS Mercy, which left its home port of San Diego for Los Angeles on Monday.

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Neither ship is intended to treat individuals suffering from COVID-19.

Instead, the vessels -- each of which boasts 1,000 beds which were built to treat individuals wounded in war -- are intended to relieve the pressure on extant hospitals in the two cities as they experience an influx of patients.

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The Comfort was also sent to New York after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

It can accommodate 1,200 doctors, nurses and medical specialists, and has a helicopter landing pad -- and it can receive patients by boat as well.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he expects the vessel to port in New York in mid-April after departing Norfolk, Va., where it is undergoing maintenance.

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Earlier, it was suggested the Mercy would be sent to Seattle before the shift to Los Angeles. The change in venue was ordered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Esper said, adding that the DoD anticipates setting up a field hospital in Seattle.

On Wednesday the New York Times reported that 25,000 people in New York State have tested positive for the virus, and that the number of positive cases in the state has doubled every three days.

New York officials project a need of 140,000 hospital beds to house those suffering from the virus, up from an earlier projection of 110,000. Currently, just 53,000 are available.

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