Navy Hospital Ship Sailing to New York Harbor, Cuomo Says
The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort is being dispatched to New York City as coronavirus cases almost doubled, Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters in Albany on Wednesday.
The floating hospital, which has previously been sent to disaster zones such as Haiti and post-Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, can help free 1,000 beds, the governor said. Another ship, the Mercy, will head to the West Coast.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters on Tuesday that hospital ships aren’t equipped to handle infectious disease patients but could provide care for trauma victims, allowing more beds in hospitals on land to handle those with the coronavirus.
The Comfort is sailing from Norfolk, Virginia, which has a major naval base, and the Mercy is docked at its home port in San Diego, California. Each ship is capable of carrying 12 fully equipped operating rooms, a medical laboratory and pharmacy, as well as providing digital radiological services, CAT scans and oxygen production, according to the Navy. The crews can each include as many as 1,200 medical and communications personnel.
The leaders of New York and New Jersey raised alarms on Tuesday about potentially severe shortages of intensive-care rooms and equipment to deal with a surge in coronavirus cases. New Jersey’s governor requested federal military assistance to deal with shortfalls.
The governor said he would meet with officers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday afternoon to discuss creating emergency hospital space.
There are now 2,382 positive cases in the state, and 1,008 had been identified since Tuesday, he said. In New York City, there are 1,339 cases.
New York state will be in desperate need of hospital beds and ventilators soon and may need more than 12 times the existing intensive-care capacity, Cuomo has said.
The state is estimating the numbers of cases caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak will peak in 45 days, at which point it will need between 55,000 and 110,000 hospital beds, as well as 18,600 to 37,200 intensive-care unit beds, Cuomo said. New York currently has 53,000 hospital beds and 3,000 ICU beds available, he said.
Cuomo said nonessential businesses in New York state must keep half of their workforce home. His office will release a list of essential businesses, which will include health-care facilities and pharmacies.
The percentage of employees who must work from home could increase in coming weeks if the rise in the number of cases doesn’t slow, Cuomo said.
“You could get to 100% of workers stay home, besides essential services. That’s what Italy wound up doing,” he said.
— With assistance by Travis J Tritten
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