New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced early Monday that he would be in touch with Trump to request the Comfort start accepting patients infected with the novel coronavirus. Hours later, the US president announced he would let the governor lead the charge.
"We’re going to let him [Cuomo] do it and … New Jersey is going to use it also. New Jersey is a hotspot … it’s a big ship and it’s set for COVID," Trump said during his Monday afternoon news conference.
Late that night, ABC News reported a crew member aboard the medical ship had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and was believed to have been asymptomatic when the ship left port in Virginia on March 28, as he had not come into contact with any patients since then, according to a Navy statement provided to the outlet.
"There is no impact to Comfort’s mission, and this will not affect the ability for Comfort to receive patients," the service statement read. "The ship is following protocols and taking every precaution to ensure the health and safety of all crewmembers and patients on board."
While the Navy insists its efforts out of Manhattan’s Pier 90 will not be hindered by the crew member’s diagnosis, a Navy official told ABC News that other members of the roughly 1,100-person crew who came in contact with the individual will be isolated for several days - no matter the results of their COVID-19 tests.
Prior to Trump’s Monday order, the Navy emergency medical ship was docked in New York City to treat non-coronavirus patients. The service had also sent area hospitals a list of 49 additional medical conditions that would prohibit someone from being transferred from the ship.
"Taking on more patients as quickly as possible is critical to helping the city of New York during this pandemic crisis," Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of the US Second Fleet, said of the policy change, as reported by ABC News. "We listened to the feedback from area health professionals and the community and believe this is the best way we can help our fellow Americans."
According to the New York Department of Health, 138,863 of the 340,058 patients tested in the state have been confirmed to have the novel coronavirus. A total of 5,489 individuals infected with the virus in New York have died over the past few weeks.
NYC alone accounts for nearly half of the state’s fatalities, with 2,738 COVID-19-related deaths confirmed in the city.