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USNS Mercy doctors, nurses and corpsmen sent to California isolation center to treat coronavirus patients

The hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 20) arrives in Los Angeles on Friday, March 27, 2020.

U.S. NAVY

By ERIKA I. RITCHIE AND ALICIA ROBINSON | The Orange County Register | Published: April 24, 2020

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SANTA ANA, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — A team of 40 medical personnel from the USNS Mercy, a Navy hospital ship docked at the Port of Los Angeles, will take the lead in treating coronavirus patients sent to the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa.

The Fairview campus — prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and opened Monday by order of Gov. Gavin Newsom — will be used to isolate and treat patients with COVID-19, the disease that stems from the virus. The patients won’t need the acute care of a hospital.

The first patients were expected to arrive this week, but Orange County officials, who have cooperated with state and federal agencies regarding the site, said Thursday they weren’t aware if anyone had been placed there.

The developmental center is one of several alternate care sites the state has opened in Southern California.

“Orange County is incredibly lucky to have the support of USNS Mercy Navy personnel at Costa Mesa’s Fairview Developmental Center,” Congressman Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach), said. “We are thankful for their assistance and coordination with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to ensure Orange County families have access to critical medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Mercy personnel at Fairview include two doctors, 16 nurses and 22 corpsmen, two of whom are specially trained as respiratory technicians, said Capt. John Rotruck, commanding officer of the Mercy.

The group left the ship on Monday, April 20, after being screened for the coronavirus and undergoing a 14-day “restriction-of-movement” period. They will be staying off the ship.

“Fifty beds will be open and that number can increase to 100,” Rotruck said Wednesday of plans for Fairview. “We are supporting the state of California’s mission.”

The facility was previously planned for as many as 1,100 beds, but that number likely will not be needed because a projected surge of patients officials were worried could overwhelm area medical facilities has not occurred.

The Los Angeles County Medical Alert Center is coordinating any transfers of patients from hospitals, according to a memo from the OC Health Care Agency. Among those who could be sent to Fairview are residents of skilled nursing facilities where an outbreak occurs; disabled adults from group homes who become infected and need to be isolated; and others Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley described as “the most vulnerable in our community.”

At the end of their care, whichever hospitals patients came from will assist with plans for their discharge, the county memo says.

Because Orange County is part of a multi-county emergency response region, patients could come from other counties if their local medical facilities run out of space, officials have said.

“As the state works to increase our local Orange County healthcare capacity, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the USNS Mercy have been valuable partners in preparing alternative care sites like Fairview Developmental Center to be used for potential surge capacity,” State Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris said in a statement.

“Surge planning remains a critical priority and statewide focus. We hope we never have to use these surge beds at Fairview, but they must be there in case we need them,” she said. “Our statewide stay-at-home order is working, and together, we have been able to mitigate the spread of this virus and to save lives.”

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©2020 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)
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