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USNS Comfort crew member has COVID-19 as ship moves to treat NY, NJ coronavirus patients

USNS Comfort
Posted at 6:24 PM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 07:18:05-04

NEW YORK — The USNS Comfort will be used for coronavirus treatment, President Donald Trump said at his daily briefing with the coronavirus task force Monday.

The Comfort, a 1,000-bed U.S. Navy hospital ship, was not intended for COVID-19 patients originally, but as the coronavirus pandemic continues, the need to treat coronavirus patients has surpassed those that need other care.

The Comfort will begin taking more COVID-19 patients on board Tuesday.

"Taking on more patients as quickly as possible is critical to helping the city of New York during this pandemic crisis," said Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of the U.S. Second Fleet. "We listened to feedback from area health professionals and the community and believe this is the best way we can help our fellow Americans."

A Comfort crew member tested positive for coronavirus, the Navy confirmed Tuesday morning.

According to a Navy spokesperson, the crew member is not a medical professional and is isolated on the ship. He was tested before the ship left Norfolk, Virginia, and was negative, but he later became symptomatic in New York and was retested.

"There is no impact to Comfort's mission and this will not affect the ability for Comfort to receive patients," VIce Adm. Lewis said. "The ship is following protocols and taking every pecaution to ensure the health and safety of all crew members and patients on board."

A Navy spokesperson told PIX11 the Comfort will continue to take trauma non-COVID-19 patients as well, who will be tested upon being admitted onto the ship.

As of Monday there were about 40 patients being treated onboard.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had urged the president to allow coronavirus patients on the ship, similarly to the plan for Manhattan's Javits Center was adjusted.

The ship has 12 operating rooms as well as radiology suites and a CT scanner. It also has ICU beds, a lab and a pharmacy.

"Glad this decision was made — we need the USNS Comfort to take COVID patients to relieve the strain off of our overburdened hospitals," New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson tweeted Sunday, when Trump had said he was considering the move.

Trump also said New Jersey will be able to send COVID-19 patients onto the Comfort as well.