Medical personnel from USNS Mercy will be deployed to assist LA nursing home

Hospitalman Mark Canlas, from Hayward, Calif., treats a patient in an intensive care unit aboard the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), April 16, 2020. ( Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan M. Breeden )

Approximately 40 medical personnel from the USNS Mercy hospital ship docked at the Port of Los Angeles will be deployed to assist a skilled nursing facility in the L.A. area, a Navy spokesman confirmed Friday.

"This mission expands USNS Mercy’s mission to serve as a ‘relief valve’ for state and local healthcare providers," said Public Affairs Officer Lt. Andrew Bertucci.

The Navy did not reveal which nursing home it would be deploying personnel to.

The expanded mission comes at the request of FEMA following mounting concerns over COVID-19's spread in nursing homes. Twenty nursing homes or care facilities have had outbreaks of 20 or more people testing positive for coronavirus, according to Director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health Barbara Ferrer.

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"We have requested additional assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and the state to help us address the need for increased technical assistance at the large number of sites that have positive cases," Ferrer said. "This is particularly technical assistance around being able to implement stringent infection-control processes, and also we've requested additional staffing to support the high rate of staff absences at some of the facilities, which again limits the ability of the staff to provide high-quality care.

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"We're also working with a handful of nursing home providers who have offered to help us set up sites that can service COVID-19-positive patients that need to reside at skilled nursing facilities and intermediate-care facilities and are transitioning back, in many cases, from having stayed in a hospital for a few days," she said.

Lt. j.g. Kayla Marthy, left, from Long Island, N.Y., and Lt. j.g. Brianna Garcia, from St. Petersburg, Fla., treat a patient in the intensive care unit aboard the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), April 13, 2020. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan M. Breeden)

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L.A.'s County's death toll rose to over 500 on Friday when the county announced 40 more deaths early afternoon, including Pasadena, who maintains its own health department separate from the county, reporting six deaths, and Long Beach officials who subsequently announced two more deaths Friday afternoon.

L.A. County officials also announced Friday the availability of free same-day coronavirus testing for people who have COVID-19 symptoms, including difficulty breathing, cough, and fever. Residents can schedule an appointment at https://lacovidprod.service-now.com/rrs.

USNS Mercy, in coordination with FEMA, state and local agencies, continues to accept elderly patients and other adults meeting standing criteria including a negative COVID-19 test.

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City News Service contributed to this story