Seven medics on Los Angeles hospital ship test positive for coronavirus

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Seven medical crew members of a giant hospital ship sent to Los Angeles to help the city tackle its coronavirus outbreak have contracted the disease, the US Navy said Tuesday.

The USNS Mercy has 1,000 beds on board and is treating only non-coronavirus patients, in a bid to ease the strain on onshore emergency rooms.

Two of the seven medics who tested positive had "minimal contact" with patients before they were diagnosed, US 3rd Fleet spokeswoman Rochelle Rieger told AFP.

"We removed them from the ship and they're currently individually isolated off the ship," she said.

There was no indication of infection among patients, and the pair had worn full protective equipment including masks, gloves and gowns during their contact with patients.

Around 120 additional medics who had close contact with the infected crew members "are now in self-quarantine also off the ship, just as an extra precaution," Rieger added.

The 894-foot (272-meter) Mercy, a converted oil tanker currently docked in the Port of Los Angeles, has 15 patient wards and blood bank capacity of 5,000 units.

It currently has only 20 patients on board.

Following the outbreak among crew, which was first confirmed last Wednesday, around 1,000 medical staff remain on board the ship.

"We still have plenty of medical treatment crew members on board to conduct the mission and to continue taking patients," said Rieger.

Governor Gavin Newsom said the ship, which arrived in Los Angeles on March 27, would play a key role as California braces for a surge in COVID-19 infections.

According to a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University, Los Angeles has had 326 deaths from coronavirus, out of a nationwide total of 24,485.

The state of California has officially reported 22,348 cases, including 687 deaths.