Navy Hospital Ship Arrives in LA to Ease Coming Burden on Hospitals

LOS ANGELES (CN) – A U.S. Navy hospital ship docked at the Port of Los Angeles on Friday as medical facilities in Southern California prepare for a surge of Covid-19 patients in the coming weeks.

The USNS Mercy arrived in LA County as health officials announced the rate of infected people over the last six days tripled.

At the rate of spread, Los Angeles County is just five days behind New York City, which has seen an explosion of nearly 45,000 infected people.

“We have not been waiting but preparing,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said Friday, as hospitals across the Golden State black out elective surgeries and reduce their patient intake. Newsom said due to stay at home orders, hospitals have seen a decrease in trauma surgery.

“We don’t believe our fate is predetermined,” said Newsom.

USNS Mercy leaving San Diego Bay. (U.S. Navy photo)

The USNS Mercy is equipped with 1,000 hospital beds and trained naval staff, but they will not be used to treat those infected with the novel coronavirus. Instead, the medical ship – which responds to humanitarian crises across the globe – will act as a “relief valve” for hospitals in Southern California that expect to see an excess of infected patients moving into the month of April, said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. John Gumbleton.

Currently, there are 746 individuals with Covid-19 who are hospitalized in California, 200 of them in intensive care, said Newsom. That does not include the 4,180 individuals who are awaiting test results, said Newsom, due to a backlog.

As of Friday, 88,400 people have been tested in California, at a rate of about 10,000 a day. The state has 4,090 ventilators and an additional 815 are being refurbished. The goal is for the state to have 10,000 ventilators available for the incoming surge.

In LA County, health officials saw a 50% increase Thursday. Over the last six days, the number of infected jumped from 409 to 1,465 as of Friday or more than tripled, according to LA County Department of Public Health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer.

LA County’s mortality rate of 1.8% is now higher than that of New York City, which is 1.4%, said Ferrer.

County officials in Los Angeles closed all public beaches and hiking trails on Friday to discourage people from congregating in public. Last week, thousands of Angelenos took to the outdoors despite health officials advising social distancing of at least six feet.

“I know how hard this is, I know how isolated how everyone feels,” said Ferrer. “But we’re in this together. We do it well and stand a chance at slowing the spread. If we don’t do it well and our numbers can exponentially grow each and every day, which you know results in the loss of life for people with serious illness.”

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle projects California will hit its peak use of hospital beds by April 24.

Two days after convincing the nation’s largest banks to freeze mortgage payments for 90 days on families mired in the Covid-19 crisis, Newsom on Friday went to bat for California renters.

Through executive action, Newsom barred landlords from evicting tenants who can show they are unable to pay rent due to the crisis. The moratorium will apply to renters able to provide documentation such as termination notices, pay stubs, bank statements and medical bills showing their finances have changed.

Under the order, if tenants can’t meet all or part of their monthly rent, they are required to send their landlords a letter no more than seven days after the rent is due. Tenants are officially required to repay their rent in a “timely manner” but could face eviction once the moratorium is lifted on June 1.

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