Defense Secretary Mark Esper said two military field hospitals will be sent to Seattle and New York City this week to take pressure off medical facilities responding to the coronavirus outbreak.
"Beyond that, once that's confirmed, we will look at sending to other places," he told reporters at the Pentagon.
The locations of the hospitals are being determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"I've spoken with seven, eight, nine, 10 governors so far," Esper said. "Each one of them has had requests for field hospitals."
Esper said the Defense Department "clearly can't meet everybody's needs with what we have in our inventory," so it is relying on FEMA to prioritize its response.
Esper said he anticipates field hospitals being deployed to areas hit by the COVID-19 pandemic that need temporary additional bed space, while local structures are converted to hospitals.
"We can come in for a short period of time, for a few weeks, to provide that capacity until they get either gyms converted, hotels converted, college dorms converted," he said. "Because what we're talking about is the need for thousands of beds. We could provide, in a field hospital, 248. And we only have so many field hospitals."
He noted that the Army Corps of Engineers is assisting New York with this task now.
"So, I see us playing this role where we're the gap-filler for a period of weeks," he said. "We can then pull out and go to the next site and cover, again, that gap for the next city or locality that is ramping up."
Meanwhile, he said, the hospital ship Mercy is being deployed to Los Angeles and the Comfort being sent to New York City to take in non-COVID-19 patients.