The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has directed the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) to admit patients who have tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
USNS Comfort is currently docked at Pier 90 on Manhattan’s West Side supporting the medical relief efforts in New York City and to relieve pressure on the New York hospital system amid the pandemic crisis.
The opening of the hospital ship for coronavirus patients was announced by the U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), the DoD’s lead for COVID-19 operations in the United States.
According to a USNORTHCOM statement, USNS Comfort will accept trauma, emergency and urgent care patients without regard to their COVID-19 status effective immediately. The Javits Center, now named the Javits New York Medical Station, will continue to be DoD’s primary facility for COVID-19 patients.
The Javits New York Medical Station and USNS Comfort together act as an integrated system working inside the larger New York City medical system. The ability to take COVID-19 patients onboard USNS Comfort provides increased capability to care for high severity COVID-positive cases, allowing the Javits New York Medical Station to focus on lower severity COVID-positive patients.
USNS Comfort was originally deployed to serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients admitted to shore-based hospitals, providing a full spectrum of medical care to include general surgeries, critical care and ward care for adults. This was to allow local health professionals to focus on treating COVID-19 patients and for shore-based hospitals to use their Intensive Care Units and ventilators for those patients.
USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy are the two Mercy-class hospital ships operated by the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC). 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.