Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday that the Pentagon has deployed “many” of the 2,000 ventilators it committed to the national coronavirus fight, after apparent confusion last week over where they should be sent.
“Many of those ventilators deployed with the USNS Comfort and Mercy in New York and (Los Angeles), respectively. They are with our field hospitals. We have several field hospitals deployed in New York, in Seattle, in New Orleans and Dallas. And then we provided several hundred more that are pre-positioned and ready to go, particularly with regard to New York City when they’re needed,” Esper told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
CNN reported last week that despite having committed to transferring 2,000 ventilators in military stocks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services to fight the pandemic, the Pentagon had not shipped any of them because the agencies have not asked for them or provided a shipping location, according to the Pentagon’s top logistics official.
Esper, asked by Tapper Sunday how many of the pledged ventilators the department still has in its possession, estimated the Pentagon is “probably sitting on a few hundred.”
“But we’re sitting on them in a sense that they’re prepared to ship once they are needed. Once HHS exhausts its stock,” he said.
Both of the Navy hospital ships that were sent to New York and California are meant to only receive patients undergoing treatments unrelated to this virus. The ship docked in New York City harbor is now treating more than 30 patients, a US Navy official told CNN Sunday.
Esper also said Sunday the Pentagon plans on “deploying over 1,100 additional doctors and nurses, and other medical professionals to New York,” following requests from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“The bulk of them will go to the Javits Center and then as of late yesterday, we agreed to deploy a few hundred of them to 11 New York City hospitals that are also seeing a deficiency when it comes to medical staff,” the secretary said.
Hospitals in New York, which is currently the epicenter of the virus in the US, are struggling to respond to the crisis, with officials there constantly sounding the alarm on a limited number of bed spaces, medical personnel and critical supplies needed to treat coronavirus patients.
CNN’s Jamie Crawford, Barbara Starr, Zachary Cohen, Veronica Stracqualursi and Ryan Browne contributed to this report.