The USNS Comfort, the Navy’s hospital ship that has toured the planet saving lives, is preparing to deploy on a medical mission to New York City.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the Comfort, which is homeported in Norfolk, is expected to arrive in New York Harbor in April.
Hospital facility shortages are a major concern across the country. In the state of New York, Governor Cuomo said Tuesday that COVID-19 cases are doubling every three days, outpacing initial predictions. It now appears the state will need a staggering 140,000 hospital beds (right now, it has 53,000 beds). Comfort has 1,000 hospital beds and 12 fully-equipped operating rooms and will help expand New York’s medical surge capacity at a crucial time.
“The deployment of the USNS Comfort to New York is an extraordinary but necessary step to help ensure our state has the capacity to handle an influx of patients with COVID-19 and continue our efforts to contain the virus,” Governor Cuomo said.
Comfort is currently in a maintenance period in Norfolk, which is why it will take a few weeks to begin its service in New York. At the same time the U.S. Navy is also deploying the USNS Mercy, homeported in San Diego. The two ships were built as oil tankers, but converted to hospital ships in the 1980s. Comfort was based in Baltimore for about 25 years but moved to Norfolk in 2013.
She has provided support after the Haiti earthquake, Hurricanes Katrina and Maria, the Iraq and Gulf wars, and various missions to provide medical care in under-served nations. The ship deployed to New York City one other time– roviding medical support in the days following 9/11.
–Meg Walburn Viviano