First responders saluted the USNS Comfort on Thursday as it departed New York City, the U.S. epicenter of the Chinese coronavirus, after just 182 patients were treated on board.
The U.S. Navy ship, sent to relieve New York City hospitals overwhelmed by the drastic rise in coronavirus cases, departed on Thursday after spending a month docked at Manhattan’s Pier 90.
“The NYPD and FDNY had a major display of vehicles and boats to salute the ship as it departed,” NBC News reported.
“Even as USNS Comfort plans to depart NYC, the ship and its embarked medical task force remain prepared for future tasking,” Walsh stated.
“The Navy along with U.S. Northern Command dedicated forces, remains engaged throughout the nation in support of the broader COVID-19 response,” she added.
The ship made headlines in early April after reports surfaced, indicating that it only had 20 patients aboard.
“We’re bringing them on as fast as we can bring them on,” Navy spokeswoman Elizabeth Baker said at the time.
Officials originally planned for the ship to take non-coronavirus patients only, hoping to lessen the demand on local hospitals facing an influx of coronavirus patients. It switched course in early April, designating 500 beds for coronavirus patients. Despite that, the ship never came closed to reaching its capacity, treating a total of 182 patients over its month-long presence in the city.
Similarly, a 250-bed field hospital set up by the Army in Seattle’s CenturyLink Field Event Center shut down this month after just three days, never seeing a single patient.
“We requested this resource before our physical distancing strategies were fully implemented and we had considerable concerns that our hospitals would be overloaded with Covid-19 cases,” Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said in a press release at the time.
“But we haven’t beat this virus yet, and until we do, it has the potential to spread rapidly if we don’t continue the measures we’ve put in place,” he warned.