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USNS Mercy to deploy to California or Washington state, USNS Comfort is headed to New York

In a Sept 23, 2018 photo, sailors stand in formation during an all hands call aboard Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy in the Pacific Ocean.

HARLEY K. SARMIENTO/U.S. NAVY

By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 20, 2020

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WASHINGTON— The Navy’s hospital ship USNS Mercy is expected to deploy to either California or Washington state next week, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced Friday.

“We aim to deploy the Mercy early next week and get her underway to one of those two states to help out as well,” Esper said during an appearance on the TV show Fox & Friends.

Esper said he had spoken to the governors of both states.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that he had sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting the ship be sent to the Los Angeles region, saying they expect more than half of the state’s population — 25.5 million people — will be infected during an eight-week period. The Mercy is now at its home port -- Naval Base San Diego, Calif.

Trump told reporters Friday that the White House is working with both states to determine where to deploy the hospital ship. He said no decision has been made.

Washington has one of the largest outbreaks with 1,377 positive cases and 74 deaths as of Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource center. California has had 1,048 positive cases and 19 deaths as of Friday.

The other Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, will deploy to New York in early April, Esper said on Fox & Friends. Trump said Friday that the ship will deploy to New York Harbor. The state has 5,715 positive cases of coronavirus and 38 deaths as of Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Each ship has a staff of 1,000 medical staff, according to defense officials.

The ships and field hospitals will not treat patients infected with coronavirus but they are intended to help open spaces at local hospitals for people who have that illness, Esper said Wednesday.

kenney.caitlin@stripes.com
Twitter: @@caitlinmkenney

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