The Pentagon says its two Navy hospital ships are under maintenance and won't be able to immediately respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN Wednesday that the USNS Comfort, which is being sent to New York from its base in Norfolk, Virginia, could take a couple weeks or more. The USNS Mercy, based in San Diego, should be ready before the end of the month to provide support somewhere on the West Coast.
Esper told CNN, "We're moving everything we can to do that. The challenge is making sure they're properly staffed. Each ship has a thousand medical professionals, we need to get them alerted and start steaming to the respective locations."
The plan is to use the ships to care for non-coronavirus patients. Esper said specific needs to treat COVID-19 can't be met on the ships, but that the vessels can be used to make room in hospitals by caring for other patients.
Contains footage from CNN.