Cuomo will ask Trump to allow coronavirus patients on Comfort

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Following the arrival in New York City of the U.S. Naval hospital ship Comfort, NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo is seen during a press conference at the field hospital site at the Javits Center.

Albin Lohr-Jones | Pacific Press | Getty Images

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will ask President Donald Trump on Monday to allow the U.S. Navy’s 1,000-bed hospital ship Comfort to be used to treat patients with the coronavirus to relieve pressure on extremely strained New York City’s hospital system.

“We don’t need the comfort for non-COVID cases, we need it for COVID,” Cuomo said at a press conference in Albany, N.Y.

The Comfort is currently docked on Manhattan’s West Side at a time that New York City is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

The ship is now being used to treat just a handful of patients without COVID-19, leading to criticism that the ship has been of little or no help with the coronavirus crisis in New York. As of Saturday, the Comfort had just 27 patients, with more than 970 empty beds.

The original plan for the ship was to not treat coronavirus patients.

But Cuomo, speaking at a press conference, “as it turned out, there’s not a lot of non-COVID people in the hospital system.”

He attributed that to a decrease in the number of auto accidents and crime as a result of a city-wide lockdown on most businesses and social distancing efforts by residents.

“I’m going to call the president this afternoon and ask him to shift the Comfort from non-COVID to COVID,” Cuomo said.

“Then we would have Javits [Center] and the ship Comfort as a relief valve,” he said. “That is the only way we sustain this level of intensity in the hospital system.”

A view of the USNS Comfort at the Pier 90 on April 1, 2020 in New York City. The Comfort, a naval hospital ship, is equipped to take in patients within 24 hours but will not be treating patients with COVID-19. The ship’s 1,000 beds and 12 operation rooms will help ease the pressure on New York hospitals, many of which are now overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

Nancy Rivera | Bauer-Griffin | Getty Images

If Trump agrees to allow the Comfort to be used to treat coronavirus patient the ship would augment a temporary hospital set up about a mile south in the Javits Center, a huge trade-show facility that has been outfitted with 2,500 beds.

The Javits Center also was originally slated only to be used for non-coronavirus cases. But with a surge of such cases, Cuomo had directed it to be used for infected patients.

On Friday, fewer than five patients from Javits were transferred to the Comfort, according to the Navy.

Those patients later tested positive for COVID-19.

The patients were transferred back to the Javits Center “as soon as practical,” a Navy spokesman said Sunday.

Hospital leaders in New York City have criticized the Comfort’s deployment because it does not accept COVID-19 patients.

“If I’m blunt about it, it’s a joke,” Michael Dowling, the head of Northwell Health hospital system told The New York Times earlier in the week.

“Everyone can say, ‘Thank you for putting up these wonderful places and opening up these cavernous halls.’ But we’re in a crisis here, we’re in a battlefield.”

The coronavirus has now infected more than 123,160 people in New York state and killed at least 4,159 people, according to Johns Hopkins University.

More than 3,000 of those deaths were in New York City, according to Hopkins. 

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which is producing models for the White House on the U.S. and state COVID-19 outbreaks, predicts that more than 15,600 people in New York state will die from COVID-19 by Aug. 4.

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