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USNS Mercy Hospital Ship Arrives At Port of Los Angeles

The USNS Mercy at the Port of Los Angeles on March 27, 2020.

Credit: Office of the Governor of California

Above: The USNS Mercy at the Port of Los Angeles on March 27, 2020.

The hospital ship USNS Mercy sailed into the Port of Los Angeles Friday to provide relief for Southland hospitals preparing for an anticipated surge of thousands of coronavirus patients in the coming weeks.

The 1,000-bed ship departed Naval Station San Diego Monday and entered the Port of Los Angeles around 8 a.m. Friday, docking at the cruise ship terminal.

Port officials said the arrival of Mercy is not expected to disrupt shipment operations, and there will be a gradual transfer of patients to the ship from land-based hospitals as needed. Mercy will not house people who test positive or are showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Gov. Gavin Newsom toured the vessel with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and hailed it as a "remarkable asset" that will serve as a relief valve for Southland hospitals, treating non-coronavirus cases to free up hospital space for people affected by the pandemic.

RELATED: Navy, Marines Race To Contain Coronavirus Spread

Newsom noted that hospitals statewide have been clearing bed space by deferring elective surgeries, but having an additional 1,000 beds aboard the Mercy available will play a key role in meeting a surge that could demand 50,000 beds statewide.

"Our modeling moving as we expected and we're seeing in Los Angeles, ... they're seeing surge numbers that put them on track within a week to be in line with where New York City currently is if they see the kind of increases (that were reported this week)," Newsom said.

Newsom and Garcetti gave thanks to President Donald Trump for deploying the Mercy to Los Angeles. The mayor said the ship immediately becomes the largest hospital in the city — at full capacity increasing the area's available hospital beds by two-thirds.

He said the Mercy will be a "COVID-19-free bubble" to take the stress off Southland medical centers.

"By every person who comes in ... every bed not taken in Los Angeles by the great work of the men and women here will mean one more bed for the surge the governor spoke about," Garcetti said. "This truly is mercy on the water."

Mercy is staffed by more than 800 Navy medical personnel and support staff, and 70-plus civil service mariners who operate and navigate the ship, load and off-load mission cargo, assist with repairs to mission equipment and provide essential services to keep the medical facility running.

The ship will serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals, and will provide a full spectrum of medical care to include general surgeries, critical care and ward care for adults, according to the Navy. This will allow local health professionals to focus on treating COVID-19 patients and for shore-based hospitals to use their intensive care units and ventilators for those patients.

"This global crisis demands whole of government response, and we are ready to support," said Navy Capt. John Rotruck, Mercy's military treatment facility commanding officer.

"Mercy brings a team of medical professionals, medical equipment and supplies, all of which will act, in essence, as a `relief valve' for local civilian hospitals in Los Angeles so that local health professionals can better focus on COVID-19 cases," he said. "We will use our agility and responsiveness as an afloat medical treatment facility to do what the country asks, and bring relief where we are needed most."

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