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Navy Hospital Ship With 1,000 Beds Has Just 20 Patients 48Hrs After Docking In NYC

Ryan Ford 3 Apr 2020

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We're living in unprecedented times with a pandemic gripping the globe, shutting down entire economies and overwhelming medical systems. It's a situation on a scale none of us has ever experienced before, and so we're all just doing our best.

With New York City quickly becoming the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., President Trump dispatched the USNS Comfort, the world's largest hospital ship, to provide relief to hospitals already stretching their resources.

When the Comfort arrived in NYC, residents largely cheered the ship.

While the idea of sending the ship was largely to provide care to patients without COVID-19, freeing up beds for coronavirus patients in the city, it has also served as a morale boost to the city's citizens. The Comfort has been welcomed as a sign of hope, of reassurance, and, of course, comfort in trying times.

However, while morale might have improved, the actual mission seems to have been starting slowly. As CNN reported, 48 hours after the ship docked at Manhattan's Pier 90, the 1,000-bed ship has just 20 patients.

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A big part of the problem so far has been a matter of process.

To ensure that the ship didn't end up serving COVID-19 patients unexpectedly, ambulances wouldn't take anybody directly to the ship. Rather, patients had to be driven to a hospital, tested for the virus, and would only be taken to the Comfort after a referral by the hospital.

Some patients simply aren't well suited for treatment aboard the Comfort, either. Those with compromised immune systems, for example, can't be treated on the ship because it lacks the proper isolation facilities. The Navy sent hospitals a list of 49 ailments it's unable to accept patients for, Business Insider reported.

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However, officials stress that while time is of the essence, they're still streamlining the operation.

"Screening for care on the USNS Comfort will be modified and will now occur pier-side in an effort to reduce the backlog at some of the nearby New York hospitals," a Pentagon spokesperson said. "The screening effort for the USNS Comfort will no longer require a negative test (for coronavirus), but each patient will still be screened by temperature and a short questionnaire."

"We are conducting data analysis to see how we need to change our configuration -- bottom line we've been here 48 hours, and this is a scenario no one has ever seen before," the official added to CNN. "No one wants to get this wrong. We hear the feedback from medical professionals, and are fine tuning."

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The local government also expects things to improve quickly.

"There's no question in my mind that will get resolved quickly. You'll see that number grow," Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN. "Having the Comfort here is a very, very important thing for New York City in terms of the number of patients served, but also an extraordinary morale boost when we needed it. I don't have a doubt in my mind, the Comfort will be filled up soon."

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New York is looking at other ways to increase its hospital bed capacity as well.

Javits Convention Center is in the process of being converted into a 2,500 bed makeshift hospital for COVID-19, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced. There have also been calls to convert some of the city's empty hotel rooms into hospital space.

Governor Cuomo also signed an executive order allowing the state to take any ventilators and PPE and distribute it as it deems necessary, he announced on Twitter.

h/t: CNN, Business Insider

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