SAN DIEGO — President Trump confirmed in a news conference Wednesday that a Navy ship based at Naval Base San Diego will be used to assist hospitals in response to the spreading coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak.
According to USNI News, the Pentagon has already begun the process of boarding medical staff and equipment onto two ships, the United States Naval Ship (USNS) Mercy in San Diego and USNS Comfort in Virginia.
“Two sources told USNI News that the idea was for the ships to provide relief for coastal hospital systems, with the ships taking on non-COVID-19 cases and allowing the hospitals to focus on the most critical patients suffering from the virus. The Pentagon also has extensive equipment for erecting field hospitals in addition to the hospital ships, but those facilities are optimized for trauma cases, with several beds close together, and not for infectious patients.”
USNI reports that Pentagon officials say many of the medical personnel that would be called to assist on board these ships may come from civilian medical facilities, including those from active duty and reserve forces.
On Wednesday, March 18, President Trump announced that he was invoking the Defense Production Act to help fight the novel coronavirus.
The Defense Production Act (DPA) of 1950 is a federal provision that allows the government to marshal the private sector to ramp up production of certain supplies.
According to FEMA's website, the DPA is the "primary source of Presidential authorities to expedite and expand the supply of resources from the U.S. industrial base to support military, energy, space, and homeland security programs."
In this case, it would allow the administration to expand the supply of resources needed to handle the coronavirus pandemic - amid concerns some doctors and hospitals are already running short on equipment.
The president said he would be signing the provision on Wednesday "in case we need it."
According to the CDC, coronavirus (COVID-19) is a family of viruses that is spreadable from person to person. Coronavirus is believed to have been first detected in a seafood market in Wuhan, China in December 2019. If someone is sick with coronavirus, the symptoms they may show include mild to severe respiratory illness, cough, and difficulty breathing.
Currently, there is no vaccine, however, the CDC suggests the following precautions, along with any other respiratory illness:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.
The CDC also says facemasks should only be used by people who show symptoms of the virus. If you’re not sick, you do not have to wear a facemask. The CDC says the immediate risk to the U.S. public is low.