A Welcome Sight: Navy Hospital Ship USNS Comfort Arrives In New York

March 30, 2020 - 11:21 am

The U.S. Navy's hospital ship the USNS Comfort has arrived New York City to help in the war against the coronavirus pandemic.

The Comfort set sail from the Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia on Saturday and arrived in New York Monday, four weeks ahead of schedule after undergoing maintenance.

"This ship behind me is a 70.000-ton message of hope and solidarity," President Donald Trump said Saturday before the Comfort set sail on her mission.

Cheering could be heard as the ship passed by the World Trade Center on her way to Pier 90 in Manhattan.

Captain Patrick K. Amersbach, commanding officer of the Comfort, told WCBS 880 that they are planning on accepting patients within 24 hours of arriving in New York City.

The ship has 1,000 rooms and will help relieve some of the pressure on the city's hospitals by treating non-COVID-19 patients, freeing up space for those who do have the disease.

"We are going to provide the maximum amount of care that we possibly can," Amersbach told anchor Joe Avellar. "We will be working with the communications center out of the Javits Center with doctors aboard the ship. They will screen the patients before they arrive to the ship and they're still working out those details but the majority of the patients that we will be taking aboard the ship will be medical patients versus surgical patients."

The Comfort began its life as an oil tanker but was outfitted to become a hospital ship in 1987 to carry up to 1,000 active duty wounded and ill as a result of a major combat operation. In addition to its 12 operating rooms, it is outfitted with a pharmacy, labs and oxygen making plant.

"We have the ability to produce our own medical grade oxygen, we can produce water aboard the ship, we have enough storage and supply for our crew of almost 1,2000 for, well, it depends on the duration of the mission," Amersbach said. "The good thing is we have a very strong and capable logistics train that will be able to resupply as needed.

Amersbach said crew on board the ship are practicing social distancing, disinfecting the vessel, and following the same guidelines issued to the American people by the CDC including frequent hand washing and no face touching. 

The captain said the Comfort is proud to serve the people of New York and this country.

"We're going to do everything we possibly can for the people of New York and we will be there until the mission is over," Amersbach said. "We are proud to be part of the response up there and actually be able to support our own people. This is our nation, it's not just a global thing, but it's in our own hometown. So we are very proud to be part of this mission."

Photo credit K.C. Wilsey/FEMA

The USNS Mercy is performing a similar mission in Los Angeles, California. 

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