President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday he is dispatching the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort to New York Harbor, while also invoking the Defense Production Act to expand the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking beside Trump in the White House, Defense Secretary Mark Esper also announced that he has alerted field and expeditionary hospitals to be prepared to deploy as needed to support the response.
The Navy has two hospital ships. The other, USNS Mercy, is being prepared to deploy to a location on the West Coast, Trump said. The ships will be launched in the next week, he said, noting that he spoke with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who announced the Comfort deployment in a press conference minutes before the president's comments.
"They are in tip-top shape," Trump said.
The Navy is getting ships crewed and ready to launch, defense officials said. Mercy should be underway in days, but Comfort could take two weeks to deploy because it is still finishing up maintenance, according to chief Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman.