UPDATED: Wednesday, March 18, 2020 at 11:44 a.m. Since this story was published, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that Trump is dispatching the USNS Comfort to New York immediately. The ship will be docked in New York City Harbor.
Four Democratic members of Congress from New York have signed a letter to President Donald Trump calling for the deployment of the USNS Comfort, a hospital ship that has already treated 550,000 disaster victims worldwide, to New York to combat Coronavirus on Tuesday, March 17.
Max Rose and Nydia Velázquez, two of the congresspeople who wrote the letter, represent parts of Brooklyn.
“We need the full force of government working together to combat Coronavirus, particularly here in New York City where we’re in the heart of the storm,” said Congressman Rose “We need thousands of new beds and deploying the Navy’s floating hospital would be a huge help.”
The Comfort contains 1,000 hospital beds, 12 operating rooms, research laboratories, and an oxygen-producing plant.
The ship is currently being refitted in Norfolk, VA, but United State Naval Institute (USNI) News reported Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is preparing to mobilize both the Comfort and the USNS Mercy, the United States’s other hospital ship which is stationed in San Diego, to combat Coronavirus.
The letter describes New York as “more at risk from Coronavirus than any other state,” and points out New York’s urgent need to increase hospital capacity.
Secretary of Defense Esper says the ships are ready to go, but he worries about pulling civilian doctors in the reserve away from their local hospitals, according to USNI News.
“The big challenge isn’t the availability of these inventories — it’s the medical professionals. All of those doctors and nurses either come from our medical treatment facilities or they come from the reserves, which means civilians,” Esper said. “What I don’t want to do is take reservists from a hospital where they are needed just to put them on a ship to take them somewhere else where they’re needed.”