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Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort expected to arrive Monday in New York

The U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command hospital ship

The U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) departs Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, on Saturday bound for New York City.  Credit: U.S. Navy

The USNS Comfort, a 1,000-plus bed Navy medical ship city officials hope will provide relief to New York’s coronavirus-stressed health care system, is scheduled to dock in Manhattan on Monday.

The Comfort, a former oil tanker converted in the 1980s into a medical ship, will provide surgeries and other care to patients not infected with the coronavirus to open up intensive-care unit beds at New York hospitals, the Navy said. 

“Behind me is a 70,000-ton message of hope and solidarity to the incredible people of New York,” President Donald Trump said during a brief ceremony Saturday in Norfolk, Virginia, as the crew prepared to depart for New York. 

Comfort will begin accepting patients on Tuesday, the Navy said in a statement. The ship will be docked at Pier 90 on Manhattan’s West Side for as long as necessary, Navy officials said. 

Comfort left Naval Station Norfolk with more than 1,100 Navy medical personnel and support staff, as well as 70 civilian mariners. The ship has 12 fully equipped operating rooms, eight intensive care unit beds and four radiology suites. It also has two oxygen-producing plants and an isolation ward. 

“It is stocked, it is stocked to the brim,” Trump said Saturday. 

The ship will not have the ability to test for the coronavirus onboard, the Navy said, but it will be able to take samples and send them to appropriate labs. Crew members have not been tested for the virus but their temperatures are being checked and they have been screened about possible exposure. The ship is adequately supplied with personal protective equipment, according to Navy officials. 

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has pleaded for assistance from the federal government, is expected to be at Pier 90 when Comfort docks. 

New York will run out of medical supplies by next weekend, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday, and desperately needs help from military medical personnel. 

“I want to say the military has been very responsive on this,” de Blasio said during an interview with CNN. “They have a lot of doctors and nurses. I have made a direct request to the president and to the military to find us immediately more medical personnel and get them here by next Sunday.”

DeBlasio also thanked the Economic Development Council, state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers for getting the dock ready, including quickly dredging at the dock to accommodate a ship as large as the Comfort.

Patients will be transferred from local hospitals and patients will not be accepted on a walk-on basis. Residents should not come to the pier expecting to receive care, Navy officials said. Patients will not be charged for care they receive on Comfort, the Navy said. 

“There are no anticipated costs to patients treated on the ship,” the Navy said in a statement. “The care we provide in the U.S. is similar to the care we provide around the world when we conduct humanitarian and disaster relief missions. ... The deployment of America's Hospital Ships is an investment in health and wellness for America’s people.”

Another Navy hospital ship, the USNS Mercy, departed San Diego March 23 and arrived in Los Angeles on Friday.