Nearly 90% of the US Navy hospital ship in New York is empty amid coronavirus fight


The USNS Comfort is seen as it enters the New York Harbor during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, U.S., March 30, 2020.

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

WASHINGTON — The USNS Comfort hospital ship holds fewer than 80 patients in New York City, leaving nearly 90% of its available space unused after its emergency dispatch to the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus crisis. 

Shortly after arriving from its home port in Norfolk, Virginia, the military’s floating lifesaver was adjusted to receive coronavirus patients, halving its 1,000-bed capacity. As of Friday, 71 of the USNS Comfort’s 500 beds were occupied.

During a White House briefing Friday, President Donald Trump said the lack of patients on the ship showed that New York City was healing.

“They didn’t need it, that’s a good thing. That’s such a good thing. I think that shows that New York’s making progress,” Trump said.

On Friday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that his state is still struggling to contain the coronavirus outbreak citing nearly 2,000 hospitalizations daily.

Meanwhile, Cuomo and other governors across the nation are desperate to loosen restrictions and reopen businesses that were shuttered to help curb the outbreak that’s killed more than 33,300 people in the United States.

After initially saying that the USNS Comfort would begin to receive patients from the greater Philadelphia area, the Pentagon recalled its press release Thursday and issued a statement saying that “the information was incorrect and should not have been included.”

The Pentagon deployed the USNS Comfort and the USNS Mercy in March to help with the surging coronavirus cases.

The twin vessels, which were transformed from hulking oil tankers into 1,000-bed floating lifesavers, are nearly three football fields long and 10 stories high, making them indisputably the largest hospital ships in the world.

Both ships have side ports to take on patients at sea as well as helicopter decks for air transport. The ships are so massive, each would be tantamount to the fourth-biggest hospital in the United States.

The vessels are equipped with 12 operating rooms, a blood bank, a medical laboratory, a pharmacy, an optometry lab and a CT scanner. Each has 15 patient wards, 80 ICU beds and 10 elevators to transfer patients between decks. 

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