President Donald Trump said the US Navy hospital ship Comfort would leave New York City as soon as possible after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it was no longer needed in the city’s fight against the coronavirus.
The USNS Comfort was deployed to New York City on March 30 to help the city’s hospitals as they struggled with a tidal wave of coronavirus patients.
The Comfort’s initial mission was to aid these hospitals by taking all noncoronavirus patients. But it turned out that there weren’t many noncoronavirus patients to take, prompting criticism when it became known that only 20 patients were received on the 1,000-bed ship in its first day.
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After the outrage, Cuomo asked the president to sign off on the ship taking coronavirus patients, to which Trump agreed.
But to take coronavirus patients, the ship had to be reconfigured into a 500-bed hospital to avoid spreading the virus. But the Comfort never came close to reaching capacity, thanks in part to the opening of a makeshift hospital at the Javits Convention Center.
According to NBC New York, the Comfort had treated 179 patients as of Tuesday, with 56 still on board at the time.
Cuomo offered to have the ship deployed to another hard-hit area during a Tuesday meeting with the president.
“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 the meeting. “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 took him up on the offer, saying that Comfort would be sent back to its home port in Virginia to prepare for its next mission, which has not been decided yet.
“I’ve asked Andrew if we could bring the Comfort back to its base in Virginia so that we could have it for other locations, and he said we would be able to do that,” Trump said at the White House coronavirus briefing on Tuesday. “The Javits Center has been a great help to them, but we’ll be bringing the shop 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.”
Even before the Comfort started taking coronavirus patients, one of the 1,200 crew members tested positive for the coronavirus, despite the crew quarantining for two weeks before being sent to New York.
That number grew to four, all of whom have since recovered and are back at work, a Navy spokesperson told The Virginian-Pilot on Monday.