To relieve NYC hospitals, USNS Comfort hospital ship becomes COVID center

April 7, 2020

Photo by Darren McGee for the Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

When Governor Cuomo first announced that New York would be receiving hospital assistance in the form of the USNS Comfort naval hospital ship arriving in New York Harbor and the Javits Center being turned into a temporary FEMA hospital, health officials outlined those as overflow facilities. However, as the coronavirus caseload has increased, mainly in New York City, the need for more COVID-only beds has grown imminent. Therefore, last week, the governor announced that the Javits Center was becoming a 2,500-bed COVID-only facility, and yesterday he received approval from Donald Trump to also transition the Comfort “to serve as a relief valve for our stressed hospital system.”

The USNS Comfort arrived last Monday at Pier 90 on West 50th Street. Last Thursday, the New York Times ran a story that said: “The ship’s 1,000 beds are largely unused, its 1,200-member crew mostly idle,” with only 20 patients having been transferred there. The main reason is that with car accidents, construction accidents, trauma cases, and crime all down due to Cuomo’s New York PAUSE order, the initial need for overflow facilities has become less crucial.

Though the Comfort has a 1,000-bed capacity, it will come down to 500 beds with the shift, as COVID beds require more space.

It seemed likely that Trump would approve the governor’s request, as, according to The Hill, he said about the Comfort in his briefing on Sunday night:

That was not supposed to be for the virus at all, under any circumstances. But it looks like, more and more, we’re going to be using it for that. So we’ll see. If we need it for the virus, we will be using it for that. They’d prefer not, for obvious reasons, but if for any reason they need it, it’s ready, willing, and able.

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on April 6, 2020, and has been updated with new information.


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