A Look Inside the Navy Hospital Ships Fighting COVID-19

The U.S. Navy has two hospital ships, with one headed to Los Angeles and the other to New York City.

The U.S. Navy released a pair of videos to YouTube showing the interior of the USNS Mercy, a hospital ship deploying to the West Coast to help deal with the COVID-19 epidemic. Designed to deal with mass casualty events such as major wars, the hospital ships are being woken up from reserve status and readying to sail to both coastlines

The U.S. Navy’s two hospital ships are kept on inactive status with skeleton crews, typically requiring about five days to prepare for emergency deployment. Once activated, each 894 foot long, 63,000 ton vessel becomes a fully capable hospital, with 1,000 hospital beds, eleven operating rooms, 80 intensive care beds, and a radiology suite. The ships can each accommodate up to 1,3000 doctors, nurses, orderlies and ship’s crew, with medical personnel assigned from existing naval hospitals and medical facilities ashore.

The two ships were built in the 1980s, designed to render medical services during major war and natural disasters. Each is built upon the hull of a retiredSan Clemente-class tanker

USNS Mercy left its home port in San Diego, California on March 23, en route to the greater Los Angeles area. The hospital ship won’t actively care for people diagnosed with coronavirus but instead concentrate on trauma and other care cases, allowing hospitals ashore to concentrate their attention on fighting the pandemic.

Mercy’s sister ship, USNS Comfort is based at Norfolk, Virginia, and will head to New York City in the coming weeks. The deployment caught Comfort as the ship was undergoing a series of upgrades, delaying the ship’s activation. New York City is particularly hard hit by the coronavirus, with 30,000 cases reported as of March 26.

The Defense Visual Information Distribution Service maintains a large repository of photos and video of the Mercy-class hospital ships, which give a feel for life aboard the unique ship.

Source: (Mizokami, s.f.)


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