A little spring of hope arrived just now to the New York City harbor as the city battles coronavirus. The USNS Comfort naval ship has docked at Pier 90 on the Hudson River near the Intrepid, and a press conference has begun as we type this. New Yorkers gathered (some at good social distance, others less so) and cheered on the arrival, along with cheers for NYPD boats and other officials. Our photographer Aaron Asis was on hand today to witness the boat’s arrival and to attend the press conference where Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke.
Many boats accompanied the arrival of the USNS Comfort as it made its way here from Virginia, and looking at live tracking of the ship in advance, you could see the fleet surrounding it. As the USNS Comfort entered New York harbor, tugboats and other boats joined in. The USNS Comfort will not be used for coronavirus patients, but will be used to perform surgeries and other critical care for hospitals that are overrun with coronavirus care. As Governor Cuomo said at the press conference this morning, the ship will be “a relief valve for the hospitals.” This, along with the Javits Center temporary hospital that opened this weekend, will open up capacity at the local hospitals.
The current USNS Comfort was built in 1976 originally as an oil tanker for the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, named the SS Rose City. In 1987, it became part of the U.S. Navy as a hospital ship. Beyond the hospital beds and surgery rooms, the USNS Comfort has a lot of different departments including an intensive care unit, laboratory, radiology, a medical pharmacy, morgue, optometry, physical therapy, dental services, oxygen producing plants, and four seawater distillation plants that can turn seawater into drinking water.
Historically, the use of floating hospitals has precedent. Bellevue Hospital used floating wards in the effort to control tuberculosis in New York City. The USNS Comfort is also no stranger to New York City. After 9/11, it was docked and in action at Pier 92 in Manhattan. The ship has also served in the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War, for Hurricane Katrina, for the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, Hurricane Maria in 2017, and more.
Bill de Blasio speaking at press conference for USNS Comfort
Next, check out photos of the temporary hospital at the Javits Center.