Navy Secretary says hospital ships should bring 'comfort' to coastal coronavirus hotspots

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U.S. Navy hospital ships heading to coronavirus-plagued New York and Los Angeles should "comfort" people in those cities, Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said Saturday.

Modly said the 1,000-bed ships -- painted white and adorned with large red crosses -- have become a symbol of the United States' compassion and "capability to respond quickly to crises."

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"This will really be the first time that they've been used in the United States," he said on "Fox & Friends Weekend." "I asked the question back in February whether or not they could be used to assist in this crisis, and they've thought very creatively about how we could get these ships ready on time, and they're on their way."

Although the USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort are not designed to help with infectious diseases, the Navy thought the ships could take some of the pressure off the coastal cities' crowded emergency rooms.

"It was just a matter of saying, 'OK, how can we accelerate some of the maintenance things, put some things off for a later time?' so that we could still get these ships up there on time to help with this crisis," Modly said. "Because every day matters. And so it's been great."

Modly told the "Fox & Friends" hosts that Americans should feel confident that "their Navy is doing what we expect their Navy to do."

"In addition to these two ships, I hope they also recognize that we have 90 other ships that are out there at sea performing operational missions to defend the country," he said. "And we do this every day. ... There are young Americans on those ships, and they are incredible."

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Modly said he hopes the people of New York and Los Angeles "get a sense of comfort" from seeing the ships moored in their city.

"And, more importantly, I hope the ships are able to actually do their mission," he said.