Even the most patriotic American agrees the United States’ healthcare system has come up woefully short amidst the coronavirus pandemic. We have reached the point at which New York City COVID-19 patients are being treated on Navy hospital ships. The Navy’s Comfort ship recently traveled up the coast, past Virginia all the way to Manhattan where it docked at Pier 90. The ship’s sister vessel, the Mercy, is also docked in the area to provide beds for coronavirus patient treatment.
The Navy to the Rescue
Though the original plan was for the Mercy and Comfort to treat everyday people in need of medical care while restricting traditional hospital use to those suffering from COVID-19, the strategy quickly changed. A mere 20 patients were admitted to the Comfort for treatment even though the vessel contains 1,000 beds.
The lack of traditional patients combined with the sheer overwhelming number of coronavirus patients forced Governor Cuomo to send coronavirus patients to the Comfort and Mercy. This was a difficult decision to make as these Navy ships are enclosed spaces that lack ventilation. It will prove quite difficult to clean the ships once the coronavirus outbreak dwindles. However, our overwhelmed healthcare services necessitated the use of these floating hospitals for those in desperate need of care.
Prior to their use for treating coronavirus patients, the two ships were primarily relied upon to support humanitarian efforts. At the moment, 500 of the Comfort’s beds are dedicated to those battling severe coronavirus infections. Only time will tell if the Comfort is truly capable of treating those plagued by infectious diseases such as COVID-19. After all, Navy officials initially stated the Mercy and Comfort were not properly configured for such treatment.
Are Rough Waters Ahead?
Though the decision to use Navy hospital ships to treat coronavirus patients seemed sensible, rough waters might be ahead, pun intended. One of the ships’ crew members recently tested positive for coronavirus, making the decision to use the ship for treating those plagued by this highly infectious virus somewhat questionable. After all, the ship’s interior lacks the comparably extensive space and ventilation available in traditional hospitals. It is quite possible a COVID-19 carrier aboard the Comfort or Mercy could spread the virus like wildfire due to the vessels’ cramped quarters.
Sadly, five more patients who boarded the ships for treatment of non-coronavirus ailments subsequently tested positive for the virus. However, the crew member who tested positive was quarantined immediately after the results of his test. Individuals who were in the vicinity of the crew member who tested positive for the virus will also be kept in isolation for several days even if they test negative.
A Boost to Morale
Though the Comfort and Mercy were designed to treat battlefield injuries as opposed to highly infectious viruses, these ships just might end up saving dozens or even hundreds of lives. New York City’s coronavirus cases have skyrocketed in recent weeks, creating a desperate need for hospital beds, even if they are on a floating vessel such as the U.S.N.S. Comfort and Mercy. Though the thousands of beds on these ships might not be filled with sick patients, their presence on the shores of the city certainly improve the morale of a beleaguered populace as well as the heroic members of the local medical community.
As stated by Gov. Cuomo, the presence of the Comfort on the West Side of Manhattan serves as an important symbol of hope during these trying times. These ships make it clear to New Yorkers are not alone in their battle against this deadly unseen virus that has already taken more than 15,000 lives in the United States alone.