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Mississippi asks Biden administration to send military hospital ship

Norfolk-based USNS Comfort was deployed to help treat patients in the early days of the pandemic. Mississippi health officials hope it can be deployed again.

NORFOLK, Va. — Hampton Roads could send help to one of the COVID-19 pandemic's hardest-hit states.

Mississippi has requested the federal government send a military hospital ship such as the Norfolk-based USNS Comfort to help its overloaded hospitals with COVID-19 patients, state health official Jim Craig said Wednesday.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center has 127 COVID-19 patients, including 26 children, Dean LouAnn Woodward said Wednesday. About 90% of them are unvaccinated, she said.

The dean warned, "The Mississippi hospital system will fail within the next five to seven or 10 days if the current trajectory continues.”

USNS Comfort was deployed for a month near the start of the pandemic last year to help treat coronavirus patients in New York City, an early COVID-19 epicenter.

At the time, Comfort Captain Patrick Amersbach said the crew on board the hospital ship treated more than 180 patients, about 70 percent of whom were COVID-19 positive.