Trump sends off '70,000-ton message of hope' to New York harbor for coronavirus response

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President Trump bid bon voyage Saturday to a U.S. Navy hospital ship bound for New York City "stocked up" with supplies and medical personnel to aid in the coronavirus pandemic response.

"This great ship behind me is a 70,000-ton message of hope and solidarity to the incredible people of New York, a place I know very well, a place I love," Trump said before sending off the USNS Comfort. "We're here for you. We're fighting for you and we're with you all the way and we always will be."

"You have the unwavering support of the entire nation," Trump said at the Norfolk Naval Station.

Before saluting the "fully loaded" ship farewell from the pier, Trump praised the 1,200 medical personnel aboard as the military's "greatest weapon" in the pandemic response.

The ship has 12 operating rooms, a medical laboratory, a pharmacy, a helicopter deck and more, Trump said.

"It's stocked up to the gills. Right up to the top," the president said earlier Saturday.

Trump spoke with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Saturday morning about the response and also granted his request for four additional medical response sites in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx that should have 4,000 additional beds, Cuomo said earlier. The USNS Comfort should arrive in New York Harbor on Monday with up to 1,000 beds.

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The USNS Comfort will sail to the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak in New York to ease the burden on distressed New York area hospitals responding to the growing level of patients infected with the novel coronavirus.

United States Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort is seen during its mission in the coast of Riohacha, Colombia November 27, 2018. 

United States Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort is seen during its mission in the coast of Riohacha, Colombia November 27, 2018.  (Reuters)

Trump said he's weighing additional quarantine restrictions on travel out of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to stop the spread of the virus. A decision will come shortly, he said.

“We will stop at nothing to protect the health of New Yorkers and the health of the people of our country in their hour of need," Trump said.

In a sign of the severe social distancing underway nationwide, Trump didn't speak to a crowd but just to a handful of reporters, military and government personnel. The few allowed into the event site was subjected to a temperature test and asked a series of health/travel-related questions before they could enter.

The Navy ship deployment comes on the heels of Trump signing into law Friday a $2.2 trillion aid package that includes direct payments to most Americans, increased unemployment aid, help for small business as well as a massive loan fund for corporations – at a time when unemployment is surging at a record pace.

Trump said he's marshaling the full power of America's might to "vanquish the virus." He touted efforts to ramp up manufacturing of medical supplies, to support states and to ready military reservists.

Trump, acting in a wartime footing, said he's "very proud" to be the president and sought to assure Americans the country will emerge stronger and more unified after the pandemic.

"With the grace of God, we will win this war and we will win this war quickly with as little death as possible," Trump said.

He stood with Defense Secretary Mark Esper on the sunny pier and saluted the ship as it pulled away and let out a honk.

Over 1,200 medical personnel will be on board who "will bring to bear the skills, care, and compassion needed to wage this fight against an invisible enemy," the White House said in a statement.

"These doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, x-ray technicians, orderlies, and other medical staff will augment and support New York City’s medical community and conserve hospital capacity by treating some non-COVID-19 patients aboard the USNS Comfort," the White House said.

Patients not infected with COVID-19 will receive care aboard the hospital ship, so beds in New York City hospitals can be freed up for the wave of coronavirus patients needing urgent help.

Trump already deployed the USNS Mercy hospital ship from the Naval Station in San Diego. The ship arrived in Los Angeles on Friday to "serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients" who are currently hospitalized on land.

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The sister ships were built in the 1970s and originally deployed as oil tankers before being converted to hospital ships in the 1980s and delivered to the Navy.

While both vessels have a history of humanitarian responses --- Comfort was deployed for the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Maria -- the White House framed their latest assignments as among the most important.

"As the USNS Comfort weighs anchor and leaves Norfolk Naval Station, home to the most powerful fleet in the world, she does so to embark on one of the most important assignments of her storied career—serving the American people in this great hour of need," the White House statement said.

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New York has been hardest hit by the virus with 52,318 cases and 728 deaths as of Saturday.

Fox News' Travis Fedschun contributed to this report.