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Mark Esper: DoD to Open Testing Labs, Readies Hospital Ships in Response to Coronavirus

Jeff Brody
Mark Esper

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Department of Defense would open up to 16 laboratories to test civilians for the new coronavirus and offer up to 5M respirator masks and 2K specialized ventilators, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Esper, a 2020 Wash100 awardee, said DoD would also provide other personal protective equipment to frontline responders and potentially summon more National Reserve and Guard members to help with COVID-19 response efforts.

The U.S. military is also preparing its hospital ships, USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy, for possible deployment to U.S. locations facing increasing number of COVID-19 cases, particularly in Washington state and New York. Each ship can accommodate up to 1K patients and is designed to deliver short-term care to patients.

Although DoD has not yet received a formal request for the use of such vessels, Esper said the ships could be used to support patients without the virus to reduce pressure on civilian hospitals.

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