However, the ships will not treat coronavirus patients. Instead they will be used to treat other illnesses or injuries, and free up capacity in civilian hospitals that are expected to be overwhelmed with cases of the virus. Also, the fact the Comfort is not expected to deploy for a number of weeks means it will not provide support if the number of cases and deaths spike in the near term, as many experts have predicted.

The USNS Mercy is likely to deploy sooner, though the Pentagon has not said where it will be sent.

“The Comfort, which is on the East Coast, should be ready in a couple weeks — plus, the Mercy, which is on the West Coast, should be ready in a week and a half, two weeks, definitely before the end of this month the Mercy will deploy,” Esper told CNN’s Jake Tapper Wednesday.

Esper also said that the Pentagon was prepared to provide field hospitals to state authorities to also help with non-coronavirus patients.