The U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) returned to Naval Station Norfolk after supporting the Department of Defense (DOD) response efforts to New York and New Jersey during the coronavirus outbreak, on May 2.
During the transit from New York City to Norfolk, VA all personnel involved in the mission aboard USNS Comfort will be tested for COVID-19, and will execute a 14-day restriction of movement (ROM) following completion of the mission. The purpose of the ROM is to separate personnel who may have been exposed to a communicable disease, but are not yet symptomatic, from personnel who have not been exposed. As part of this ROM they will be isolated by either remaining on the USNS Comfort, in their own homes, or in other lodging accommodations where their movement will be restricted to their immediate area. Personnel will also be tested for COVID-19 a second time at the end of their 14-day ROM period.
The vessel will now take the necessary steps to return to a “Ready 5” status to be prepared for future tasking including COVID-19 or other humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.
USNS Comfort spent 31 days at Pier 90 in New York City, providing relief to a healthcare system stressed by the surge of COVID-19 patients.
USNS Comfort, which arrived in New York City on March 30, was originally tasked with providing care to non-COVID patients, bringing the first aboard on April 1. It quickly became apparent that in order to be of help to the city, USNS Comfort needed to treat all patients, regardless of their COVID status. On April 6, the USNS COMFORT began accepting COVID-positive patients following a thorough assessment of the existing design of the ship.
Military Sealift Command civil service mariners physically separated the hospital from the rest of the ship by cordoning off doors and ladder wells on the main deck; reconfiguring the ship to admit and treat all patients.
The DOD pursued a three-pronged effort in New York City through the high-end capability provided by Comfort, large capacity within the Javits Center, and augmentation of medical professionals directly to 11 local hospitals. Over 180 patients were treated aboard the ship and approximately 70 percent of the patient population was COVID-positive. More than 110 surgical procedures such as appendectomies, bronchoscopies, chest tube insertions, laparoscopic procedures, and tracheotomies were performed aboard.
Additionally, the Comfort’s radiology technicians performed more than 540 x-rays and CT-scans, while the pharmacy department prepared more than 1,300 intravenous and oral medications for the patients who received care aboard. The ship’s supply department ensured the distribution of ample personal protective equipment for all personnel, which were procured via a robust logistics system.