NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort arrived in New York Harbor on Monday morning to help the city’s healthcare system, which s overwhelmed by the rising number of coronavirus patients.
The 70,000-ton vessel docked at Pier 90 at around 11 a.m. Its 1,000 beds are designated for patients with non-coronavirus issues. It has surgical rooms, a CAT scan unit, X-ray machines, a dental suite, and even two oxygen-producing plants, all manned by a medical staff of 1,200, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Regional Administrator Thomas Von Essen was the FDNY commissioner during 9/11. Comfort was last in New York then, comforting first responders working around the clock.
“Everybody was affected by Sept. 11, and that’s what’s happening now. Everybody you know is affected by the coronavirus in one way or another,” Von Essen said.
“I can’t tell you how much this means,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the dock. “It’s so much more than even we realized at this moment that our nation has heard our plea for help here in New York City. Our nation is helping us in our hour of need.”
Meanwhile, several other emergency field hospitals are popping up across the city.
In Central Park, the Christian organization Samaritan’s Purse built a 68-bed facility near Fifth Avenue and 99th Street.
“A lot of suffering in Queens, especially, in Brooklyn. We’re going to open us just, hopefully, in a day or two and help offload some of that and help take care of some of the sickest patients,” said Elliott Tenpenny, of the organization.
As the Army Corps of Engineers completes its transformation of the Jacob Javits Center, another field hospital to treat non-COVID-19 patients, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James MCConville said, “Behind me is a 1,000-bed hospital that our soldiers, New York National Guard, local and state officials, and FEMA put together in a matter of days.”
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“They are not going to be able to sustain this pace. We need to bring in a whole new group to substitute for them and give them a break and keep building at our capacity,” the mayor said. “If we don’t get a lot more medical personnel quickly, even if we have the equipment, it won’t be enough.”
At the Javits Center, hospital beds will also be ready when needed. However, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the space will likely only be used at the outbreak’s apex, which current projections show is approaching at a slower rate than before.
“Now it’s doubling almost every six days. So you have almost a dichotomy. The doubling rate is slowing, and that is good news, but the number of cases are still going up,” Cuomo said.
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To continue slowing the trajectory, the governor announced an extension of the statewide lockdown to April 15, forcing non-essential workers to remain home and banning gatherings.
De Blasio said police will begin fining those who do not practice social distancing between $250 and $500.
“They are going to give people every chance to listen, and if anyone doesn’t listen, then they deserve a find at this point,” he said.
PHOTO GALLERY: Life In New York City Under The Coronavirus
In some hopeful news, one of the state’s first coronavirus patients — a New Rochelle lawyer — has been released from the hospital. More than 3,500 others have been discharged across the state since the outbreak began.
A new testing site also opened Monday in the Bronx. It’s located in the parking lot of the Bay Plaza AMC Theater in Baychester.
The drive-thru site will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, by appointment only. Priority will be given to people considered to be at high risk.