Hospital ship being deployed to New York Harbor

The USNS Comfort, a 1,000-bed hospital ship, is being deployed to New York to help with the expected surge of coronavirus cases in coming weeks.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the USNS Comfort will be deployed to New York harbor in order to increase the number of available beds to treat patients with the COVID-19 coronavirus.

“Right now in New York specifically, the rate of the curve suggests that in 45 days we could have up to an input of 110,000 beds — people needing 110,000 beds — that compares to our current capacity of 53,000 beds,” Cuomo said.

The USNS Comfort has a capacity of 1,000 hospital beds and is equipped with 12 fully functioning operating rooms. The deployment of the hospital ship will dramatically increase New York’s hospital surge capacity.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in New York has risen to 4,152 as of Thursday morning, an increase of over 1,500 from Wednesday. Cuomo attributed much of the jump to an increase in testing; of the 22,284 people to be tested so far in New York, around 7,500 were tested on Wednesday alone.

“The bottom line here is very simple. The number of coronavirus cases we have coming into the healthcare system has to match the capacity of the healthcare system…the increase in the number of cases has to be reduced to a rate of admission that your hospitals can handle and right now we have 53,000 hospital beds,” Cuomo said.

The current hospitalization rate of coronavirus cases is about 19 percent (777 out of 4,152 total cases) and is projected to rise in the coming weeks.

The USNS, which is stationed in Norfolk, Va., is expected to arrive in Manhattan by April. After the Pentagon issued orders to deploy the USNS Comfort to New York, crews have begun preparing the vessel and loading necessary medical supplies. Medical staff for the ship, many of them civilian reservists, are being called up for this mission.

Department of Defense officials told other media outlets on Wednesday that the ship is currently undergoing maintenance, and may not be ready for weeks. However, they said the work will be expedited, considering the urgency of the mission.

The governor is set to meet with the leadership of the Army Corp of Engineers this week to discuss ways to increase hospital capacity in New York. In addition to deploying the USNS Comfort, the governor hopes to identify and modify existing buildings that can be converted to medical facilities amid the rising coronavirus outbreak.