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USNS Comfort to Depart New York City

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The view from USNS Comfort's deck at Pier 90 in Manhattan, April 16 (USN)

By The Maritime Executive 04-22-2020 07:35:15

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that the New York region no longer needs the support of the hospital ship USNS Comfort, which has been moored at Manhattan's Pier 90 since March 30. 

"It was very good to have in case we had overflow, but I said we don't really need the Comfort anymore," Cuomo told MSNBC after a meeting with President Donald Trump. "It did give us comfort, but we don't need it anymore, so if they need to deploy that somewhere else, they should take it."

Trump confirmed the decision during a daily briefing Tuesday. "I've asked Andrew [Cuomo] if we could bring the Comfort back to its [sic] base in Virginia so that we could have it for other locations, and he said we would be able to do that," he said. "We'll be bringing the ship back at the earliest time, and we'll get it ready for its next mission, which I'm sure will be an important one also."

As of Tuesday, the 1,000-bed hospital facility aboard Comfort had treated a total of about 179 patients since the ship's arrival. The number is a relatively small contribution: the New York City health system has handled about 36,000 coronavirus hospitalizations since the start of the outbreak.

Initially, Comfort was intended to serve as a hospital for non-COVID patients only. Under the protocol set up at the time of her arrival, potential patients had to be taken to a shoreside hospital, evaluated, tested for COVID-19, determined to be virus-free and then transported to the ship. Extensive restrictions on admission meant that she had only a handful of beds filled at the end of her first week in New York. At the time, the head of New York's largest private hospital system called the Comfort's contribution to the city's health crisis “a joke.” 

However, following this criticism - and the discovery of a positive case of coronavirus among her crew - the Comfort was assigned to accept some COVID-19 patients as well. In addition, the Pentagon has redeployed some of Comfort's medical personnel to shoreside hospitals, where they have provided relief for civilian medical staff.