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How MASH hospitals can help coronavirus outbreaks across the country

Ann Schmidt

On Tuesday, the White House said MASH units -- or field hospitals -- could be ready to deploy around the country “very quickly” to aid medical workers as the coronavirus continues to spread.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence said officials are working with state governors to expand or create new medical facilities with the help of the Department of Defense.

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“There are two different lanes that DOD can provide, in addition to many medical supplies, to augment our national reserves,” Pence said. “The president has tasked us to evaluate, make available and to consider every request from governors for either field hospitals, expanding facilities or the Army Corps of Engineers that could retrofit existing buildings.”

He added that officials are currently taking inventory of MASH units that can be deployed quickly, Pence said.

President Trump said he spoke with governors Andrew Cuomo, of New York, and Gavin Newsom, of California, to deploy MASH units.

“We have all of this equipment in stock and we’re looking at different sites and a few different locations,” President Trump said. “If we find that it’s going to be necessary, we think we can have quite a few units up very rapidly.”

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“MASH” stands for mobile army surgical hospital, which were first deployed at the end of World War II, according to a 2014 article in the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences.

The Army first used MASH units to bring full hospitals closer to front lines.

The units were made famous by the books and television show “M*A*S*H*.”

Today, emergency field hospitals are typically deployed during natural disasters or other crises and have all the equipment to be a complete -- and mobile -- hospital, according to hospitalmanagement.net.

As the coronavirus continues to spread across the country, emergency field hospitals could be one solution to a lack of space in regular hospitals.

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On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted at President Trump asking for help before state hospitals become overwhelmed with coronavirus cases.

“President Trump: Deploy the Army Corps of Engineers to build temporary medical facilities, so that when hospitals are overwhelmed, we can move people into the temporary facilities,” he tweeted. “It’s only a matter of time before our state's ICU beds fill up.”

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