USNS Mercy

The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) at its home Naval Base San Diego.

Taking action to maintain life-preserving healthcare system capacity amid the current surge in COVID-19 cases, the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and the California Health and Human Services Agency on Tuesday, Jan. 5, formally requested the deployment of 500 additional federal medical personnel into the state to staff hospitals, skilled nursing homes and medical surge hospitals.

The request comes after the federal government notified the state that the USNS Mercy Hospital ship is now under mandatory maintenance, in dry dock, and not available for deployment.

In an effort to offset the unavailability of the Mercy ship, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Cal OES have remained in close coordination with the White House requesting that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) acquire and immediately deploy to additional hospitals in Southern California, medical personnel equivalent to the staff that would have been on the USNS Mercy, and then some.

This request includes 360 DOD medical personnel, 135 U.S. Health and Human Services (USHHS) Disaster Medical Assistance Team personnel and an additional 50 FEMA personnel, bringing the current federal augmentation request to more than 500 staff.

"Bringing additional medical staff into the state will allow us to save lives and ensure our hospitals systems are not overstretched," said Newsom. "Now is the time to use every resources at our disposal to fight the spread of this virus and protect Californians."

"As California continues to face unprecedented surges in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the state is leveraging all available resources to support our front line medical workers. We continue to actively engage our federal engagement our federal partners at every turn and appreciate the assistance from our federal partners at FEMA, HHS and DOD on providing medical personnel and other assets, including in the past the deployment of the USNS Mercy," said Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci.

Tuesday's request would supplement the 1,420 medical surge personnel already deployed to healthcare facilities statewide.

These deployments are part of an ongoing effort by the state to relieve stress on the medical care system during the current surge in cases and hospitalizations. These personnel are helping ensure necessary healthcare staffing for hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities to save lives and ensure quality medical care for all Californians who need it.

Additionally, to address the challenges in current oxygen delivery systems in many older hospitals in Southern California that are being overtaxed by the volume of oxygen flow required to treat patients with respiratory issues that arise from COVID-19, the Governor requested and deployed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate oxygen delivery system upgrades in the Los Angeles region.

The Army Corps teams are currently completing the assessment on seven hospitals and will provide design and construction assessments, technical assistance, and other support as required.

The state of California has also opened several alternate care sites in an effort to decompress local hospital systems. These alternative care sites are providing care for patients who do not need care in an intensive care unit and easing the strain on the health care delivery system. This will allow hospitals to focus their resources on those with the most acute needs.

Learn more about the state of California's efforts to combat COVID-19:

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