Trump Gives USNS Comfort a Send-Off as Hospital Ship Departs for New York

March 28, 2020 3:06 PM - Updated: March 28, 2020 6:23 PM
President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks at Naval Station Norfolk on March 28, 2020. US Navy Photo

USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) pushed off from Naval Station Norfolk, Va., minutes after remarks from President Donald Trump praising the whole of government effort to fight the COVID-19 effort.

“As we gathered today, our country is at war with an invisible enemy. We are marshaling the full power of the American nation, economic, scientific, medical and military to vanquish the virus,” Trump said standing on the pier with Comfort in the background.
“The crew of the Navy hospital ship, USNS Comfort, which is really something will embark for New York City where they will join the ranks of tens of thousands of amazing doctors, nurses, and medical professionals who are battling to save American lives. This great ship behind me is a 70,000-ton message of hope and solidarity to the incredible people of New York.

According to Trump, the ship is set to arrive at the Norwegian Cruise Line terminal at Pier 90 in Manhattan on Monday and begin seeing patients on Tuesday.

“The skilled sailors and civilian mariners aboard the ship will provide a critical surge capacity for the New York metropolitan area. Their mission will be to care for New Yorkers who do not have the virus, but who require urgent care,” he said.

The Navy’s East Coast-based hospital ship was in the midst of a maintenance period ahead of the widespread outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in the U.S. After New York became the epicenter of the U.S. fight against the virus, the maintenance was accelerated to prepare the ship for the three-day transit to New York.

As of Saturday, New York City reported 29,158 infections and 517 deaths.

The ship is staffed with a mix of active duty and Navy Reserve medical personnel to treat the patients. The service put out a call for reservists who could assist with the New York mission without effecting their own local efforts against COVID-19.

“We diligently ensured our volunteer reservists are available to support the medical relief efforts without impacting their local and state communities,” Rear Adm. John Schommer, deputy commander of the Navy Reserve Force,” said in a Thursday statement.

“When we were asked to help find medical professionals to help support this mission, we received hundreds of volunteer requests from our reserve medical community in less than 24 hours.”

The White House statement from Thursday said that “over 1,200 medical personnel and critical supplies will be onboard the vessel. They will bring to bear the skills, care, and compassion needed to wage this fight against an invisible enemy. These doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, x-ray technicians, orderlies, and other medical staff will augment and support New York City’s medical community and conserve hospital capacity by treating some non-COVID-19 patients aboard the USNS Comfort.”

Comfort’s departure comes a day after its sister ship USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) arrived in Long Beach, Calif., to support local authorities in the Los Angeles region.

Like Comfort, Mercy will treat non-COVID-19 patients to make room for hospitals on shore to treat those infected with the virus.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
Follow @samlagrone

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