The Navy is working to defeat a novel coronavirus outbreak among personnel serving aboard a hospital ship on the West Coast, the service told Insider on Tuesday, confirming earlier reporting by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Seven members of the medical staff aboard the USNS Mercy, currently pier-side at the Port of Los Angeles, have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.



USNS Mercy departing San Diego Bay, its home port, in 2008.

Wikimedia Commons

All infected personnel have been taken off the ship, as have individuals believed to have come in close contact with them. In addition to the seven who definitely have the coronavirus, another 112 personnel were quarantined ashore as a cautionary measure.

A spokesperson for the Navy's Third Fleet said that the outbreak has not affected the ship's operations.

The Navy explained to Insider that the ship is taking precautions to protect the health and safety of the crew, adding that the ship, like hospitals ashore, has infection control procedures.

The Navy's massive hospital ships, USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy, were deployed to New York City and Los Angeles to relieve the pressure on local hospitals overwhelmed by the coronavirus.

The USNS Mercy left San Diego on March 23 and arrived in Los Angeles a few days later. The USNS Comfort was rushed out of maintenance and sent quickly to New York City on March 28.

Since they arrived at their respective destinations, the two ships have consistently operated under capacity.

The USNS Mercy is presently treating 20 non-coronavirus patients, including one ICU patient. The USNS Comfort, which was retasked to treat both people with the coronavirus and those with other ailments, is currently treating 70 patients, including 34 people who are in intensive care, the Pentagon told Insider.

In total, the USNS Comfort has treated 120 people, 50 of whom have been discharged. About half of the patients treated had the coronavirus.

The USNS Comfort has had four members of its crew test positive for the coronavirus. Three have fully recovered and returned to work, and one is in quarantine.

USNS Comfort.

Defense Department

The Navy says there has been no impact to the USNS Comfort's mission.

"The Comfort was set up to provide assistance and care for patients, and that is exactly what we are doing," a service spokeswoman said in a statement.

In addition to small outbreaks aboard the Navy's hospital ships, the service is battling outbreaks aboard other ships, the most serious on the deployed aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which has nearly 600 coronavirus cases. Several sailors have reportedly been hospitalized, and one sailor aboard the carrier died of related complications.

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