USNS Comfort Arrives in New York City to Support COVID-19 Response

The U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command (MSC)’s hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) arrived in New York City on March 30 to support the nation’s COVID-19 response.

The U.S. Coast Guard provided security escort of USNS Comfort into New York Harbor, comprised of crews and assets from around the region to include the Coast Guard Cutter Shrike, Coast Guard Cutter Sitkinak, Maritime Safety and Security Team New York, Coast Guard Station New York, and Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod.

Comfort is a seagoing medical treatment facility that currently has more than 1,200 personnel embarked for the New York mission including Navy medical and support staff assembled from 22 commands, as well as over 70 civil service mariners.

“The USNS Comfort arrives in New York City this morning with more than 1,100 medical personnel who are ready to provide safe, high-quality health care to non-COVID patients,” said Capt. Patrick Amersbach, commanding officer of the USNS Comfort Military Treatment Facility. “We are ready and grateful to serve the needs of our nation.”

Comfort will serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to New York’s shore-based hospitals and will provide a full spectrum of medical care to include general surgeries, critical care and ward care for adults. This will allow local health professionals to focus on treating COVID-19 patients and for shore-based hospitals to use their Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and ventilators for those patients.

“Like her sister ship, USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), which recently moored in Los Angeles, this great ship will support civil authorities by increasing medical capacity and collaboration for medical assistance,” said Rear Adm. John Mustin, vice commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command. “Not treating COVID-19 patients… but by acting as a relief valve for other urgent needs, freeing New York’s hospitals and medical professionals to focus on the pandemic.”

“This USNS Comfort team of Sailors, Marines and Civilian Mariners came together during the transit to New York City and our medical professionals are ready to begin receiving patients from local hospitals tomorrow,” said Capt. Joseph O’Brien, mission commander of Task Force New York City. “Our personnel are our strength—the men and women of our military services accomplish incredible things every day, and I am confident in their abilities as we start the next phase of this mission.”

The ship expects to begin receiving patients 24 hours after arriving in New York City. All patient transfers will be coordinated with local hospitals, thus ensuring a consistent handoff of care between medical providers. Patients will not be accepted on a walk-on basis, and should not come to the pier with any expectation that they can receive care.

“The last time that this great hospital ship was here was in the wake of 9-11, where she served as respite and comfort for our first responders working around the clock,” said Mustin. “Our message to New Yorkers – now your Navy has returned, and we are with you, committed in this fight.”

The hospital ship departed Naval Station Norfolk on March 28. President Donald J. Trump and Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper were present at Naval Station Norfolk during the ship’s departure.

The Navy’s other hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) arrived in Los Angeles on March 27 to support the COVID-19 response efforts. The ship accepted its first patients on March 29.

USNS Comfort (T-AH 20)

USNS Comfort is the second of two Mercy-class hospital ships operated by the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC). She was delivered to the MSC on Dec. 1, 1987.

The USNS prefix identifies them as non-commissioned ships owned by the U.S. Navy and operationally crewed by civilians from the MSC.

The Mercy-class hospital ships are converted San Clemente-class supertankers originally built in the 1970s by the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO). They were acquired by the Navy and converted into hospital ships.

The ships are designed to provide emergency, on-site care for American combatant forces, and also for use in support of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. Each ship contains 12 fully equipped operating theaters, a 1,000-bed hospital facility, radiological services, medical laboratory, pharmacy, optometry labs, CAT scans, and two oxygen-producing plants.

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