Strained NYC Health Care System Welcomes Navy Hospital Ship

MANHATTAN (CN) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and crowds of New Yorkers welcomed the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort on Monday morning as it docked off Manhattan to support the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 750-bed Comfort will provide offshore hospital beds for surge capacity from the city’s hospitals and can support as many as 1,000 total hospital beds. Comfort staff won’t treat patients with Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but as city hospitals convert into 100% intensive care units for Covid-19 patients, they will be able to transfer other patients out to receive care elsewhere.

The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort passes lower Manhattan on its way to docking in New York on Monday. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

“This ship represents all that is good about the American people. All that is generous, all that is ready, responsive and resolute,” Rear Admiral John Mustin said in remarks Monday. He added that patients on the Comfort will not be charged for the medical services they receive there.

“This is an investment by the government, on behalf of the people of America, so there is no additional cost to the patient,” Mustin said.

As of Monday morning, New York City had 33,768 confirmed cases of Covid-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 800 people have died, forcing refrigerated trucks to operate as makeshift morgues.

The ship weighs 70,000 tons and last appeared in New York City waters in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. President Donald Trump dispatched the ship from Virginia on Saturday.

“I went up on the roof here to watch the Comfort come in and I had this incredible feeling of peace, actually, that help was finally coming, then we were not alone,” de Blasio said of watching the ship arrive.

President Donald Trump speaks in front of the USNS Comfort at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia on Saturday. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Though he’s grateful for the Comfort’s arrival in New York, de Blasio stressed that much more help is needed in his city.

“We have to make whole hospitals into intensive care units to get through these next weeks,” the mayor said Monday. That’s how dire, that’s how tough the situation is.”
De Blasio repeated estimates that at least 50% of New Yorkers are expected to contract Covid-19, and that the city will be particularly hard-hit at the beginning of May.

“I guarantee you that April is going to be exceedingly tough,” he added.

De Blasio said yesterday the city would enforce $500 fines on people caught breaking social-distancing guidelines. He has resisted closing the city’s parks.

Meanwhile on the state level, Governor Andrew Cuomo extended his “New York on PAUSE” policy, which keeps nonessential workers at home, for another two weeks. The governor also delayed the state’s presidential primary election to June 23.

With 66,497 confirmed Covid-19 cases, New York has the most cases in the country by far, Cuomo said in remarks Monday. Neighboring New Jersey has 13,386 cases and 161 deaths, while California rounds out the top three with 6,266 cases and 130 deaths. In New York, 9,500 people are hospitalized, with 2,000 in the ICU and 4,000 discharged. More than 1,200 have died statewide.

“There is no American who is immune to this virus,” Cuomo said. “I don’t care if you live in Kansas, I don’t care if you live in Texas. There is no American that is immune. What is happening in New York is not an anomaly. There’s nothing about a New Yorker’s immune system that is any different than any other American’s immune system.”

Meanwhile the price of ventilators — a critical component of Covid-19 care —is going up in response to high demand.

“When we started buying ventilators, they were under $20,000,” Cuomo said. “The ventilators are now over $50,000 if you can find them. … The prices went up because literally we are driving the prices up.”

Cuomo also challenged the supposition President Trump made this weekend that personal protective equipment was “going out the back door” of New York hospitals.

“I don’t know what that means,” Cuomo said Monday. “I don’t know what he’s trying to say. If he wants to make an accusation, then let him make an accusation. But I don’t know what he’s trying to say by inference.”

While the so-called curve of Covid-19 cases rises in New York, Cuomo said, there is one positive sign: The number of cases, which recently was doubling every two days, is now only doubling every six days.

A whopping 87% of New Yorkers approve of Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic, according to a Siena poll out Monday, though the governor said this afternoon he has no intention of running for president this year.

“I’m not playing politics,” Cuomo said. “I just want partnership to deal with this.”

President Trump’s handling has 41% approval, and 92% of respondents are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the pandemic.

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