An Update on the Role of the USNS Comfort in the COVID-19 Pandemic - COVID-19 Clinical Trial
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An Update on the Role of the USNS Comfort in the COVID-19 Pandemic

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    The mainstream media went out of its way to highlight the use of the USNS Comfort to accommodate New York City COVID-19 patients.  However, when a mere 20 beds on the ship were used in the week after its arrival, it became quite clear the Comfort might not be as important as portrayed.  In fact, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has since told President Trump the USNS Comfort is no longer needed in the Big Apple.  Let’s take a look at how this situation unfolded across the past couple weeks.  

    New York City Flattens Its Curve 

    A large part of the reason why the USNS Comfort is no longer needed in New York City is the Big Apple’s success in flattening its COVID-19 curve.  Fewer NYC residents require hospitalization for COVID-19 treatment than in previous days and weeks.  As a result, the city’s hospital system did not reach a breaking point.  In short, Gov. Cuomo successfully managed this crisis, ensuring those in desperate need of medical attention were provided with prompt care, be it in a traditional hospital, on the USNS Comfort or a pop-up hospital.  Such temporary emergency hospitals were erected at the Javits Center, Central Park and at SUNY Stony Brook’s campus.   

    However, time will tell if the city’s COVID-19 curve remains flat. Though NYC hospitalizations resulting from the contraction of COVID-19 have slightly decreased in recent days, there is a chance this is more of a plateau rather than a meaningful decline.  It is possible the number of COVID-19 cases will level off in the days and weeks to come, continuing to put pressure on the city’s already-stressed hospital system. 

    The USNS Comfort is no Longer Needed in New York City 

    Even if NYC COVID-19 cases level off from here forward, the USNS Comfort probably won’t be necessary in the city or its vicinity.  Thanks to the emergency hospitals established in the aforementioned Javits Center and other nearby spaces, New York City appears to have enough medical facilities to treat those plagued by the virus.  As a result, Gov. Cuomo told President Trump the Navy ship would no longer be needed in the city that never sleeps.   

    Though Cuomo insisted the ship was certainly helpful, it is time for the vessel to move on to a new destination where it can better serve the nation.  It is particularly interesting to note the city’s COVID-19 cases did not reach the projected level that would necessitate the continued use of the USNS Comfort.  This is not to say it was a mistake to bring the ship to New York as it appeared as though the city’s hospital system would be taxed to the point that additional beds would be necessary to treat those who contracted the virus.  In short, the Comfort brought New York City residents considerable comfort yet did not provide much practical service. 

    Transitioning Away From the Emergency Response 

    Gov. Cuomo thanked President Trump during their phone call, stating the construction of the Javits Center field hospital and the rapid arrival of the USNS comfort were genuinely appreciated.  However, Cuomo insisted if the federal government needed the ship to be deployed elsewhere, “they should take it.”  Trump indicated the ship would return to its Virginia base in the near future yet he kept the door open for using Comfort beds to accommodate COVID-19 patients in other parts of the country.   

    All in all, the USNS Comfort treated 178 patients.  However, the ship has 1,000 beds.  In the end, the limited use of the ship should not be viewed as an err in management.  No one could have predicted the extent to which COVID-19 would spread throughout the New York City area or anywhere else.  Both Gov. Cuomo and President Trump deserve praise for acting quickly and erring on the side of caution as opposed to carelessness during this time of crisis.  


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