USNS Comfort Crew Member Tests Positive As Ship Begins Taking in Virus Patients

USNS Comfort Crew Member Tests Positive As Ship Begins Taking in Virus Patients
Navy Hospital Ship USNS Comfort docks at Pier 90 on the Hudson River as the CCP virus pandemic continues to overwhelm medical infrastructure in New York on March 30, 2020. (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
Isabel van Brugen

President Donald Trump agreed on April 6 to use the USNS Comfort to treat patients infected with the CCP virus shortly before the virus was confirmed in a crew member aboard the 1,000-bed hospital ship.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed Monday afternoon that the Defense Department has now said the 1,000-bed Comfort will take on patients infected with the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus. The department previously said it would only admit non-COVID-19 patients to ease pressure on overwhelmed facilities.

The USNS Comfort was initially sent to New York City, the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, to free up capacity in city hospitals to focus on treating COVID-19 patients.

“I spoke to the president, and he has agreed to our request to treat #COVID patients on the USNS Comfort,” Cuomo wrote on Twitter. “This means 1,000 additional beds staffed by federal personnel.”

"This will provide much-needed relief to our overstressed hospital systems,” he added.

The use of the U.S. Navy ship—which docked on Manhattan’s west side March 30—for CCP virus patients from New York, was confirmed by Trump at a White House briefing on Monday.

“He [Cuomo] called me up a little while ago and asked if it would be possible to use the ship with respect to fighting the virus,” Trump told reporters. “We hadn’t had that in mind at all, but we’re going to let him do it.”

Trump added that New Jersey would also use USNS Comfort because the region is “a hot spot.”

“It’s a big ship, and it’s now COVID; it’s set for COVID ... hopefully, that will be very helpful to both states.”

The Comfort is one of two Navy hospital ships drafted to help in the battle with the CCP virus. The temporary hospital facility at the Javits Convention Center, which holds 2,500 beds, will also treat CCP virus patients, Cuomo announced Thursday.

The number of CCP virus cases in New York state increased by 7 percent over the past 24 hours to 130,689. Deaths linked to the disease rose by 599 to 4,758.

Shortly before Trump’s announcement, a spokesman for the Defense Department told CNN in a statement that the Navy ship Comfort will continue to accept trauma, emergency, and urgent care patients “irrespective of their COVID status.”
“Our current preference, which could change at any time … is to see Javits Center beds used by COVID patients before moving them to the Comfort,” spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said.

Comfort Crew Member Tests Positive

The U.S. Navy said in a statement Monday that a crew member aboard the hospital ship is now in isolation after testing positive for the CCP virus.
The crew member did not have any contact with patients, the Navy statement said, reported ABC News.

"There is no impact to Comfort’s mission, and this will not affect the ability for Comfort to receive patients,” the statement read. “The ship is following protocols and taking every precaution to ensure the health and safety of all crew members and patients on board.”

Crew members who had been in contact with the individual have all tested negative for COVID-19. However, they will remain in isolation for several days out of an abundance of caution, according to a Navy official.