The Navy has placed two other Navy expeditionary medical treatment facilities, one on active duty and the other from reserves, to “prepare to deploy orders.” The Navy had earlier sent two of these units to New Orleans and Dallas. They are made up of around 450 people, including 150 doctors.
The location to which units are dispatched has not yet been determined and this decision will be made by FEMA. The official said the units should be ready to deploy in about 72 hours. While the official said they should go to New York, FEMA will make this decision.
The Pentagon later confirmed the deployment of additional forces at a press conference on Friday.
“Additional medical capabilities are on the way with upcoming deployments from US Navy expeditionary medical facilities and urban US military medical task forces,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters.
The Army has also created 15 teams called “urban medical task forces” on its reserves to help strengthen the viral response. These teams will be made up of 85 people including 20 doctors, or 1,275 people in total. The workgroups are expected to work in arenas and convention centers that have been redeveloped in hospitals. The official said the forces are expected to be mobilized on Tuesday.
Earlier today, the Pentagon said the military will transform three temporary medical facilities in New York, New Orleans and Dallas into facilities capable of treating patients with the virus.
Situation in New York calls for more action
The Department of Defense acknowledges that the situation in New York City is deteriorating to the point where the United States military must make more use of its own medical capabilities, by taking risks in defense facilities, to help combat the pandemic.
These additional forces will join 460 physicians, 1,117 nurses and other medical personnel from the United States military who are already assisting civilian communities in their response to the coronavirus.
The U.S. military has deployed field hospitals in Washington State and New York to reduce the burden on civilian hospitals there, although the Seattle Field Hospital has not yet received patients and will treat non-coronavirus cases to release capacity in local civilian hospitals.
The US Navy has also deployed two hospital ships, the USNS Mercy and the USNS Comfort, in Los Angeles and New York respectively to reduce the pressure on local hospitals by treating non-coronavirus patients.
To date, vessels have treated fewer than 100 patients despite a combined capacity of 2,000 beds to treat non-coronavirus patients.
The Defense Department said Friday it is streamlining the process in which patients are brought on board to increase these numbers.
It is not known how many additional field hospitals the Army could deploy if asked to do so due to personnel and resource constraints, but Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy told CNN on Thursday that the service was actively looking for what else he could do.
The military was hesitant to call reservists to respond to concerns about their work as medical professionals in civilian hospitals.
Pressure on the ranks of military medical personnel led the service to ask retired soldiers to consider volunteering to help with the response. An army spokesman told CNN that some 9,000 retirees have expressed interest in returning to service.
“We still have capabilities, but we are definitely drawing on the resources we have,” said Hoffman, a Pentagon spokesperson.
In addition, the Pentagon is deploying a mortuary affairs unit in New York to support the office of the chief medical examiner at the request of FEMA, a US defense official said Friday.
“Highly qualified specialists will help New York fulfill its solemn duty to properly handle human remains during this pandemic. Forty-two soldiers from the 54th Quartermaster Company, of Fort Lee, Virginia, deployed to the joint Maguire-Dix-Lakehurst base. Federal and local laws of the NJ govern how these operations are conducted in the United States “, Said the official.
Hoffman also said that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper approved the supply to the Department of Health and Human Services of an additional 5 million N95 respirators.
Esper made a similar pledge last month, Hoffman said Friday that the $ 5 million of this first set of N95 masks “were delivered to the Department of Health and Human Services in support of the state and residents.”
“Almost 2 million have already been distributed and another 3 million are at distribution points in New York,” he added.
CNN’s Barbara Starr contributed to this report.