The Navy hospital ship being sent to help coronavirus-stricken Los Angeles traveled just nine miles from San Diego in 24 hours – and spent most of Tuesday anchored off Imperial Beach, California, DailyMail.com can disclose.
USNS Mercy, a converted oil tanker that has space to treat up to 1,000 patients, left its home port at Naval Base San Diego on Monday afternoon to begin its 139-mile journey north.
But the ship then anchored off Imperial Beach – just nine miles from its regular berth – where it has now been sitting for more than a day.
Despite its lack of motion Donald Trump used Twitter to boast it was ‘underway’ and spoke about it at two successive White House coronavirus briefings.
Tracking records show the vessel has been moving around the same spot at approximately 0.2 knots for over 24 hours.
On its way! How Donald Trump retweeted the Navy’s boast that its hospital ship was ‘steaming’ to Los Angeles
Very close to home: This was the Mercy’s position 24 hours after leaving port – it had sailed a total of nine miles
The USNS Mercy’s deployment has been heavily publicized, with the Navy releasing photos of the vessel being loaded with supplies over the weekend.
Its departure from San Diego on Monday at 3.30pm PST was also widely reported and flagged up on the Navy’s social media pages, including in a tweet that read: ‘Steaming to Assist! #USNSMercy departs Naval Base San Diego in support of the nation’s #COVID19 response efforts’.
It was accompanied by video footage of the ship leaving port.
But a spokeswoman for the Navy told DailyMail.com that she believed the ship was en route to Los Angeles and appeared taken aback when told it had only traveled nine miles in total and was just two miles off shore.
Another spokeswoman was also unable to explain the lack of movement.
Finally, Lieutenant Rochelle Rieger of the 3rd Fleet told DailyMail.com that the ship was still on track to reach coronavirus-hit LA within the week and is currently making final preparations to sail.
Explaining why Mercy has only sailed nine miles, Lt. Rieger said: ‘The ship is underway [but is] doing routine operations to prepare it such as ballasting the ship which you have to do to lower the draft of the ship so it can get effectively underway.
‘That’s why it hasn’t started going up towards Los Angeles yet.’
Under way – but not very far: The USNS Mercy set off from San Diego on Monday. But it then traveled a total of nine miles and spent much of the day clearly at anchor
Still on track? The Navy claimed the USNS Mercy would make it to Los Angeles ‘within the week.’
Asked how long the final preparations will take, Lt. Rieger said: ‘We expect that the ship will be at the Port of Los Angeles within the week.’
The 1,000-bed hospital ship is due to provide support for overwhelmed Los Angeles County hospitals from its new berth at the Port of Los Angeles in Long Beach.
It will not treat Covid-19 patients but the 800 US Navy medical personnel on board will help urgent-care patients with other conditions or injuries.
LA County currently has 662 confirmed cases of coronavirus and has seen 119 people hospitalized for the viral illness so far. It has also recorded the first American child to die of the virus.
On Tuesday, it was announced cases in California as a whole have surged to 2,561 – 1,000 of which are in the Bay Area around San Francisco.
New York has the largest outbreak within the US, with 20,875 confirmed cases and 157 deaths.
Mercy, one of the US Navy’s two Mercy-class hospital ships, began life as an oil tanker in 1976 but was converted and entered service as a hospital ship in 1984.
Since then, she has provided support in wars and disasters around the world, including the 1991 Gulf War and during the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami in 2005.
Her deployment to Los Angeles to help victims of the coronavirus crisis was announced last week.
‘The Department of Defense has been given direction to dispatch it to Los Angeles immediately,’ Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor said Sunday during a press conference.
Her sister ship, the USNS Comfort, is due to sail from her home base in Norfolk, Virginia, to provide support to hospitals in New York within the next few weeks.
Over the weekend, the Navy released photos showing Mercy’s preparations for her voyage north, with supplies including crates of Canada Dry ginger ale and Red Bull seen being loaded.
The ship had originally been due to travel to Washington but its destination was changed to Los Angeles after the situation there was deemed worse by officials.
The USNS Mercy is docked at Naval Base San Diego as it prepares to deploy to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southwest forklift driver, preparing to deliver pallets of supplies aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) at Naval Base San Diego in San Diego on Saturday
Navy Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy is loaded with supplies in support of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
‘The ship will serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals, and will provide a full spectrum of medical care to include critical and urgent care for adults,’ the Navy said in a news release Monday.
‘This will allow local health professionals to focus on treating COVID-19 patients and for shore-based hospitals to use their Intensive Care Units and ventilators for those patients.’
The ships are not built to deal with respiratory disease outbreaks because they don’t have segregated compartments, meaning they will not treat COVID-19 patients.
Mercy is loaded with supplies in support of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response efforts at the naval base in San Diego
This handout picture released by the US Navy shows the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) taking on supplies last week
Images show crates of water bottles prepared to go on board where 1,000 people can be moved from hospitals in LA so beds there can go to coronavirus patients in need of ventilators
Sugar snacks and drinks including Twix, Starburst Duos and Crush Orange are packed and ready to go on Mercy Saturday
The USNS Mercy, a Navy hospital ship, departs the Naval Station San Diego and heads to the Port of Los Angeles to aid local medical facilities dealing with coronavirus disease. Workers are see on board the Mercy
Members of the army look on as the USNS Mercy, a Navy hospital ship, departs the Naval Station San Diego for LA
Members of the army are seen, as the USNS Mercy, a Navy hospital ship heads to the Port of Los Angeles to aid local medical facilities
The 894-foot modified supertankers are decked out with 12 operating rooms, a medical lab and digital radiological services
The massive hospital ship also has a pharmacy, an optometry lab, a CAT-scan and two oxygen producing plants