Coronavirus: Navy commander from LA joins fight against COVID-19 in NYC

MANHATTAN, NEW YORK CITY -- In the battle against COVID-19, many people across the country have answered the call to help patients in the New York City area, including a Navy reservist from Los Angeles.

Cecilia Mendoza may look like any other nurse at Bellevue Hospital, but she's a commander in the U.S. Navy Reserves, who left her 12-year-old daughter and her husband back home in Southern California so she could help New Yorkers at their darkest hour. She will be deployed for nine months.

Mendoza, who is a nurse practitioner for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, is part of the massive operation pieced together in a matter of weeks by every branch of the military.

"It's very emotional. When I am holding a patient's hand and saying, 'you're gonna fight with me we're not giving up on this.' I'm calling it a beast. This beast is not gonna win. We're gonna win," she said.

The usual mission of the Joint Taskforce Civil Support is to respond to a nuclear attack on an American city. However, in this very different disaster, they took over the Javits Center in New York City in a matter of weeks.

During a Skype interview with Major General Bill Hall from inside the Javits Center, he said that his warriors are coming up alongside New Yorkers to get everyone back to business.

"It'd be easy to go crawl up in a ball somewhere and just hope this all goes away...and that's not what's happened here in New York City. They're doing what they need to do and our warriors are coming up alongside New Yorkers to get us back to business," he said.

The military says it was planning for the worst when it built a 2,500 bed hospital at the Javits Center.

Commander Mendoza was among the doctors and nurses deployed to take care of people there, but then the need turned out to be elsewhere, and Mendoza's orders changed.

Now, she's one of 535 military doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists deployed to more than 10 hospitals across the city. Mendoza has personally treated 50 patients in two weeks.

The commander says what touches her the most is each day at 7 p.m., everyone in the community comes out and starts clapping and cheering for the essential workers.

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