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Mississippi requests aid of USNS Comfort as hospitals feel strain

200502-N-PW494-0538 NORFOLK (May 2, 2020) The hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) returns to its homeport of Naval Station Norfolk after treating patients in New York and New Jersey in support of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ship and its embarked medical task force remain prepared for future tasking. The Navy, along with other U.S. Northern Command dedicated forces, remains engaged throughout the nation in support of the broader COVID-19 response. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua D. Sheppard/Released)

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua D. Sheppard/Released)

With hospitals being pushed to their limit, Mississippi is requesting assistance from the federal government in the form of the USNS Comfort.

A 500-bed floating hospital, the ship was last deployed to New York City in the early stages of the pandemic. Now, as the state deals with rapidly rising hospitalizations, limited ICU capacity and staff shortages, conversations with the Department of Health & Human Services have begun in regards to bringing the vessel to Mississippi.

“As we continue to see the need for additional staffing, and then also potentially for additional ICU capacity as this unfortunate wave continues at a pretty high rate, we asked HHS what would be the possibility of us looking at one of the hospital ships,” Director of Health Protection Jim Craig said Wednesday. “So, we have requested information about how the USNS Comfort and-or its resources—could be the staff from the Comfort—could come and provide assistance in the state of Mississippi.”

Of the 500 beds on the ship, 80 are for ICU patients, and can surge to 100 ICU beds if necessary. The ship is equipped with four X-ray machines, one CAT scan unit, a dental suite, an optometry and lens laboratory, physical therapy center, pharmacy, angiography suite and two oxygen-producing plants. It’s staffed by nearly 1,200 medical personnel and civilian mariners.

It was outlined Wednesday that Mississippi currently has 2,000 fewer nurses than it did at this time a year ago and that the Department of Health needs 920 additional healthcare professionals to address the shortage. Dr. Dobbs told SuperTalk this morning that the staff from the USNS Comfort would be the most beneficial resource.

According to a document obtained by ABC News, both Florida and Louisiana have also requested assistance from HHS.

This morning, MSDH reported the state’s highest one-day rise in new COVID-19 cases with 4,412—over 1,000 cases higher than the previous record.

Wednesday, the University of Mississippi Medical Center announced the reopening of its 50-bed facility in the parking garage of its Jackson Hospital with Dr. Alan Jones fearing we’re just days away from a catastrophic outcome.

“If we continue that trajectory, within the next 5 to 7 to 10 days, I think we’re going to see a failure of the hospital system in Mississippi,” Dr. Jones, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs at UMMC, said.

The facility will be staffed by a federal disaster medical team and should be operational by Friday.

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