Hospital Ship USNS Comfort to Return to Virginia

Mike Schuler
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April 22, 2020
The USNS Comfort arrives in New York Harbor, March 30, 2020. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

The U.S. Navy hospital USNS Comfort has been ordered to return to its homeport in Virginia less than a month after arriving in New York to offer surge capacity for overwhelmed New York area hospitals, U.S. President Donald Trump said in a coronavirus task force press briefing on Tuesday. 

“I’ve asked Andrew if we could bring the Comfort back to its base in Virginia so that we can have it for other locations, and he said we would be able to do that,” President Trump said. “Javits Center has been a great help to them, but we’ll be bringing the ship back at the earliest time.” 

The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) arrived in New York on March 30, 2020, bringing with it 1,000 hospital beds and serving as a beacon of hope during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis in New York City.

The ship’s initial mission was to serve as a referral hospital to help treat non COVID-19 patients. Soon after the ship began admitting patients, however, the government came under fire for the vessel being underutilized. The virus also made it on board, with at least one of the of the civill service crew members testing positive for COVID-19.

Within a week the U.S. Northern Command said the ship would begin admitting COVID-19 patients, focussing on the more severe cases. 

The Department of Defense has also setup makeshift hospital setup at New York’s Javits Center serving as the primary facility for treating COVID-19 patients in the New York City.  

“Thousands of hospital beds and the USNS Comfort was sent, as you know, to New York,” President Trump said on Tuesday. “And it was originally for more of a normal medical purpose, and we changed it over so that it could take care of people that had the unfortunate circumstance of going through the problem that we — that we know so well; unfortunately, that we know so well.”

So far, there has been no word on when exactly the Comfort is scheduled to depart New York. 

The USNS Comfort is one of two Mercy-class hospital ships operated by the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command. The USNS Mercy is currently deployed to Los Angeles and to help treat non COVID-19 patients. 

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