U.S. Navy Hospital Ship to Deploy to New York City

USNS Comfort

Published Mar 18, 2020 9:08 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Federal Government announced on Wednesday that its Navy hospital ships are being deployed to areas impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19), with the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) expected to arrive in New York in April.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters the ship will be deployed in New York City Harbor. The 894-foot 1,000-bed vessel has 12 fully-equipped operating rooms and will significantly increase New York's hospital capacity. 

However, Jonathan Rath Hoffman, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, cautions there are some issues to be considered with the vessel: “You have litters that are stacked floor to the ceiling with individuals, you have open-bay rooms because they're intended for trauma and for dealing with people who have suffered some sort of trauma, not for an infectious disease environment.  There are some beds for that, but it's a much smaller number.”

Cuomo will issue an executive order directing non-essential businesses to implement work-from-home policies effective Friday, March 20. Businesses that rely on in-office personnel must decrease their in-office workforce by 50 percent. The executive order exempts essential service industries, including shipping, media, warehousing, grocery and food production, pharmacies, healthcare providers, utilities, banks and related financial institutions, and other industries critical to the supply chain. 

"We are fighting a war against this pandemic, and we know that two of the most effective ways to stop it is by reducing density and increasing our hospital capacity so our healthcare system is not overwhelmed," Cuomo said. "The deployment of the USNS Comfort to New York is an extraordinary but necessary step to help ensure our state has the capacity to handle an influx of patients with COVID-19." 

The Governor also confirmed 1,008 additional cases of coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 2,382 confirmed cases in New York State.

New York officials anticipate the peak demand for medical services in about 45 days. Cuomo is meeting with leadership of the Army Corp of Engineers to discuss other ways to increase hospital capacity in New York. 

USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) will be tasked to support the West Coast, though a specific location has not yet been announced.