Officials consider using the historic Queen Mary as a care facility amid coronavirus pandemic

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Long Beach officials are considering using the historic Queen Mary ocean liner as a care facility as the city prepares for an influx of COVID-19 patients amid a pandemic that threatens to overwhelm local hospitals.

“The City is coordinating plans regarding care facilities and more to ensure that we remain prepared to serve the needs of our community,” city spokesperson Chelsey Finegan told KTLA in a statement. “The Queen Mary remains in consideration, and we will have a plan to announce in the future.”

Finegan said the city is still discussing how it would use the ship and wouldn’t comment on whether it is being considered for use as a medical facility for COVID-19 patients or for those that don’t have the virus.

The historic ship could become a convalescent facility for patients who no longer need intensive care, the Long Beach Post reported, citing multiple unnamed sources. The Post was first to report on the ocean liner’s possible role in the pandemic.

Royal Navy helicopters form the shape of an anchor over the Cunard superliner Queen Mary as she leaves Southampton on her final voyage to Long Beach, California.  (Central Press/Getty Images)
Royal Navy helicopters form the shape of an anchor over the Cunard superliner Queen Mary as she leaves Southampton on her final voyage to Long Beach, California. (Central Press/Getty Images)

The Queen Mary was built in 1930 in Scotland and was later retrofitted to transport thousands of troops during World War II. It was retired as an active liner in the 60s and it docked in the Port of Long Beach, where it has become a popular tourist attraction as it serves as a floating hotel, exhibit and events venue that can host more than 2,000 passengers.

If called on for help with the fight against the coronavirus, the Queen Mary wouldn’t be the only ship on Southern California’s shores to take in patients amid the pandemic.

A 1,000-bed U.S. Navy hospital ship, the USNS Mercy, docked in the Port of Los Angeles last week to take in patients that don’t have COVID-19, in an effort to ease the strain on local hospitals.

As of Saturday, L.A. County had identified 5,277 coronavirus cases among its residents, including 171 in Long Beach, where three people have died of the respiratory illness, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

As more COVID-19 cases are reported by the hundreds each day, L.A. County has emerged as the center of the coronavirus outbreak in California.

Long Beach officials on Friday said the city is preparing for the flood of patients by setting up mobile hospital tents outside multiple local hospitals, opening a rapid assessment clinic at the Long Beach City College Pacific Coast Campus and establishing a 100-bed field hospital inside the Long Beach Sports Arena.

Both the field hospital at the arena and the clinic at the college will be staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses from the Long Beach Medical Reserves Corps, authorities said.

Cots are seen at the Long Beach Sports Arena, which was turned into a field hospital amid the coronavirus pandemic. (City of Long Beach/ Twitter)
Cots are seen at the Long Beach Sports Arena, which was turned into a field hospital amid the coronavirus pandemic. (City of Long Beach/ Twitter)

With the new medical sites being set up, Long Beach will have an additional 400 beds to support its hospitals’ 1,400 beds. It’s unclear how many more the beds the Queen Mary would add if it’s chosen as a care facility.

“We are doing everything in our power to prepare for the medical and hospital surge in the weeks ahead,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a written statement. “We’ve added hospital and clinic capacity by hundreds of beds and we will continue to do so.”

Finegan told KTLA the city has had an “outpouring of individuals and businesses interested in supporting to combat the COVID-19 public health emergency.”

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