USNS Comfort Arrives in New York

USNS Comfort arrives in New York Harbor, March 30 (USN)

Published Mar 30, 2020 1:25 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort arrived in New York on Monday morning in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts.

Comfort is a seagoing medical treatment facility that currently has more than 1,200 personnel embarked for the New York mission, including Navy medical and support staff and a crew of 70 merchant mariners. While in New York, the ship will serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals, and will provide a full spectrum of medical care to include general surgeries, critical care and ward care for adults.  The mission will allow local health professionals to focus on treating COVID-19 patients and let shore-based hospitals focuse the use of their ICUs and ventilators for those patients.

The ship expects to begin receiving her first patients 24 hours after arrival. All patient transfers will be coordinated with local hospitals, and patients will not be accepted on a walk-on basis. The Navy cautioned that members of the general public should not come to the pier with any expectation that they can receive care.

“The USNS Comfort arrives in New York City this morning with more than 1,100 medical personnel who are ready to provide safe, high-quality health care to non-COVID patients,” said Capt. Patrick Amersbach, commanding officer of the USNS Comfort Military Treatment Facility. “We are ready and grateful to serve the needs of our nation.”

“Like her sister ship, USNS Mercy, which recently moored in Los Angeles, this great ship will support civil authorities by increasing medical capacity and collaboration for medical assistance,” said Rear Adm. John Mustin, vice commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command. “Not treating COVID-19 patients . . . but by acting as a relief valve for other urgent needs, freeing New York’s hospitals and medical professionals to focus on the pandemic. The last time that this great hospital ship was here was in the wake of 9-11, where she served as respite and comfort for our first responders working around the clock . . . Our message to New Yorkers – now your Navy has returned, and we are with you, committed in this fight.”

In attempting to serve non-COVID patients only, the medical staff aboard USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy face a challenge encountered in hospitals around the world: how can patients be accurately screened for coronavirus? Many never develop significant symptoms: nearly half of the 700 people who tested positive for COVID-19 aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess had no outward signs of infection at the time they were sampled. Early epidemiological studies indicate that asymptomatic cases may act as carriers for the disease's spread.