NEW YORK -- The hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) departed New York City today, April 30, after supporting the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 response efforts to New York and New Jersey residents during the coronavirus outbreak.
USNS Comfort has been at Pier 90 in New York City for a month, providing relief to a healthcare system stressed by the surge of COVID-19 patients. Even as USNS Comfort departs NYC, the ship and its embarked medical task force remain prepared for future tasking. The Navy, along with other U.S. Northern Command-dedicated forces, remains engaged throughout the nation in support of the broader COVID-19 response.
“USNS Comfort arrived in New York City to provide relief to frontline healthcare providers, and each patient who was brought aboard ensured one more bed was available in a local hospital,” said Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of U.S. 2nd Fleet and Maritime Component Element-East. “While the ship is departing New York City, make no mistake, the fight is not over, and we stand ready to support the response to COVID-19 in whatever capacity we are needed.”
Comfort, which arrived in New York City March 30, was originally tasked with providing care to non-COVID patients, bringing the first aboard on April 1. It quickly became apparent that in order to be of help to the city, Comfort needed to treat all patients, regardless of their COVID status. April 6, after being directed to accept COVID-positive patients and following a thorough assessment of the existing design of the ship, Military Sealift Command civil service mariners physically separated the hospital from the rest of the ship by cordoning off doors and ladder wells on the main deck; reconfiguring the ship to admit and treat all patients.
“This amazing crew of over 1,200 people treated 182 patients, of which approximately 70 percent were afflicted by COVID-19,” said Capt. Patrick Amersbach, commanding officer of the Comfort’s Medical Treatment Facility. “We were dedicated to providing the highest quality of care to each person who arrived to our hospital.”
In Comfort’s intensive care units, critical care nurses and respiratory technicians in particular worked together to provide constant care to many complex, high-acuity COVID-19 patients. Many of these patients suffered from rapid, multi-system organ failure requiring ventilator support.
“It is truly an honor and I am humbled to lead a team of world-class medical professionals,” said Amersbach. “We came together from different units across the nation and were able to quickly adapt to the rapidly changing environment. The training we receive is among the best in the world and enabled us to provide the highest quality care to the citizens of New York and New Jersey.”
More than 110 surgical procedures such as appendectomies, bronchoscopies, chest tube insertions, laparoscopic procedures, and tracheotomies were performed aboard. Additionally, the Comfort’s radiology technicians performed more than 540 x-rays and CT-scans, while the pharmacy department prepared more than 1,300 intravenous and oral medications for the patients who received care aboard this ship. The ship’s supply department ensured the distribution of ample personal protective equipment for all personnel, which were procured via a robust logistics system.
“The success of this mission in New York City hinged on coordination with FEMA, state and local officials and the partnership between Comfort, the Javits Center and hospitals across New York and New Jersey,” said Capt. Joseph O’Brien, mission commander of Task Force New York. “We all worked towards the common goal of ensuring that every patient who required care was able to receive it. The Comfort team is proud to help during these unprecedented times.”
Comfort is scheduled to return to Naval Station Norfolk, Va. where the ship will return to a “Ready 5” status to remain ready for future tasking for COVID-19 operations in support of FEMA.