The USNS Mercy hospital ship, meant to relieve overburdened hospitals as the number of novel coronavirus cases continues increasing, will arrive at Los Angeles World Cruise Terminal in San Pedro around 9 a.m. Friday, March 27, L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino said Thursday.
The U.S. Navy ship, which left San Diego Monday, is expected to pass by the Angels Gate Lighthouse around 8 a.m. Friday before docking at the cruise terminal, in the Port of Los Angeles, Buscaino said in a phone interview.
That terminal, near the Vincent Thomas Bridge, has the right infrastructure to accommodate gurneys and wheelchairs, the councilman added. The Mercy has 1,000 beds and will take non-coronavirus patients from hospitals around the region. The ship is staffed by 800 Navy medical personnel and 70 civil service mariners.
But, Buscaino said, the L.A. region is expected to eventually have a hospital bed shortage of 17,000.
“The Mercy alone is not going to cut it,” he said. “We’re going to need 17 more Mercy ships” up and down the California coastline.
There were 1,500 open beds at Los Angeles County’s 84 acute care hospitals, out of 23,000 beds total, as of Wednesday, according to public health officials. That included 220 available intensive care unit beds out of 2,200.
There were also 799 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, as of Wednesday, along with 13 deaths.
On Thursday morning, Joe Radisich, Jr., a former Los Angeles harbor commissioner, confirmed that his father, a legendary San Pedro high school football coach, had died the night before from the coronavirus.
“Keep in mind, if you look at what New York is experiencing, they are on an uphill climb,” Buscaino said. “We’re just entering into that dark tunnel here in this county.”
COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. Symptoms associated with the respiratory disease appear two-to-14 days after exposure and typically include fever, a cough and shortness of breath. It can particularly dangerous to the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
Buscaino, in a later interview with Fox 11 Los Angeles, stressed that spectators should not create a crowd to watch the ship’s arrival. Public health officials have prohibited large gatherings and have urged folks to maintain at least 6 feet of separation between themselves and others.
Officials, meanwhile, will determine which patients get transferred to the Mercy “on a case-by-case basis,” Los Angeles Port Police Chief Tom Gazi said on Thursday morning.
“The tempo in which that occurs will occur over several days,” he said during an online media briefing. “It won’t be a rush of patients coming in at one time.”
Gazi also said some logistics, such as the access for private ambulances, were being coordinated.
The Port of Los Angeles, the largest in the country, would see an increase in security measures, including the presence of the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard, he said.
But, Gazi added, the Mercy’s presence wouldn’t significantly change any port operations.
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