NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A crew member on board the USNS Comfort hospital ship has tested positive for COVID-19, the U.S. Navy says.
He or she has been isolated from other members and patients, and the Navy says there is no impact on the ship’s mission or ability to receive patients.
On Monday night, President Donald Trump declared that the USNS Comfort will soon become a COVID-19 treatment facility.
It moored in New York Harbor one week ago to help free up beds at hard-hit hospitals, and was thought to be here to treat non-coronavirus patients only. Now, that has changed, but when it will officially start is not yet known.
This means 1,000 additional beds staffed by federal personnel.
This will provide much-needed relief to our over stressed hospital systems.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) April 6, 2020
Outfitted with 1,000 beds, the Comfort arrived to help take trauma patients from overwhelmed hospitals. Days later, however, 41 patients have been transferred there and 31 are currently on board.
“As it turned out, there’s not a lot of no-COVID people in the hospital system, which is a separate story happens to be a good news story. A byproduct of shutting everything down is you have fewer car accidents, crime rate is way down, fewer trauma cases,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.
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Michael Dowling is the president and CEO of Northwell Health, which has 23 hospitals in its system.
“The people I need to get out of the hospital, and pretty much every hospital today is packed with COVID patients,” Dowling said.
So Cuomo asked Trump to shift Comfort to a COVID-19 treatment facility like the Jacob Javits Convention Center. The change in policy means the two facilities will have 3,500 total beds to battle the virus.
“We hadn’t had that in mind at all, but we’re going to let him do it,” Trump said.
CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
When the ship arrived, the U.S. Navy said the hospital ship was not configured to provide treatment for infectious diseases. A virus onboard means the risk of quick spread.
When asked Sunday, Capt. Joseph O’Brien, the mission commander of Task Force NYC, had said they were working on plans in case orders changed.
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“I mean, the military always plans for every contingency, so we’re doing the same thing on board right now and looking if we need to do that how would we do it,” O’Brien said.
In another change, the Comfort won’t just be for New York patients. Earlier Monday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced that Trump had approved his request to have Garden State patients have access to the Comfort as well.