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Pentagon Says Preparing Two Navy Hospital Ships to Respond to COVID-19 Outbreak

© AP Photo / Jacquelyn MartinDefence Secretary Mark Esper on Capitol Hill in Washington
Defence Secretary Mark Esper on Capitol Hill in Washington - Sputnik International
The United States has so far registered more than 5,700 coronavirus cases, while at least 94 US citizens have died from the disease, according to the data provided by Johns Hopkins University.

US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper said in a press conference on Tuesday that the US is preparing two navy hospital ships in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

"Hospital ship USS Comfort on the East Coast is undergoing maintenance. USS Mercy on the West Coast has been given orders to ready", Esper said.

Esper noted that the vessels are not equipped for infected people because they are primarily designed for trauma patients, but could take such patients from general hospitals if needed so that they could provide more space for infectious disease patients.

Ships of that kind earlier provided assistance to South America where the authorities face issues providing medical care.

The Defence Department also believes it will take 12 to 18 months to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, while some private firms believe they can develop a vaccine quicker than the US military's timeline, according to Esper.

He also said that Pentagon would make up to five million respirator masks and two thousand deployable ventilators available to civilian authorities to assist them in fighting the COVID-19 outbreak.

There are currently 22 US states that have activated their National Guard units resulting in more than 1,500 guardsmen deployed across the country.

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