The USNS Comfort hospital ship has witnessed some of the worst crises of the last 30 years. It was there for Operation Desert Storm, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake and the Venezuelan refugee crisis. After 9/11, the vessel arrived in New York City, where it ventured once again this week to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. This time, however, its mission is unique: the 1,200 medical staff onboard will not help patients suffering from the novel coronavirus, but rather those who aren’t. Its purpose is to relieve pressure on mainland hospitals by treating people who, justifiably, may be feeling forgotten amid the chaos. That’s 1,000 extra hospital beds, 12 operating rooms, eight ICU beds and four radiology suites New York just gained. It all might sound like a lot, but it’s just a drop in the bucket of New York City’s overarching plan to triple its hospital capacity by May to 60,000 total hospital beds, which has seen a swath of Central Park transformed into a pop-up field hospital. The city is the COVID-19 capital of the United States, with more than 41,000 cases and roughly 1,000 deaths. The White House is projecting anywhere from 100,000 to 240,000 fatalities nationally when this is all over, the greatest death toll afflicting Americans since the Second World War. And wartimes call for warships—or veteran hospital ships, at least.
The U.S. Navy gives comfort—in the form of a hospital ship—to an ailing New York City
Image of the Week: As the largest city in the U.S. battles a coronavirus outbreak that's stretching hospitals beyond their limits, USNS Comfort offers hope for those who are sick for other reasons—and feeling forgotten in the crisis