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‘It was like a beacon of hope’: USNS Comfort arrives at New York Harbor

Photo by Bruce Cotler

The USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship, arrived at New York Harbor on Monday from Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia and will begin treating patients on board by Tuesday, March 31.

“I had this incredible feeling of peace that help was finally coming,”said Mayor Bill de Blasio during a press conference at Pier 90 on Monday. Shortly before the media briefing, de Blasio stood on a nearby rooftop and watched the “moving” image of the military ship pass by the Statue of Liberty on its way to Pier 88. “It was like a beacon of hope,” he added.

The hospital ship will act as a “relief valve” for overburdened New York City hospitals  and treat non-coronavirus patients, said Rear Adm. John Mustin. The ship is equipped with 750 beds, operating rooms and a pharmacy. A similar military ship, the USNS Mercy, docked in Los Angeles on Friday.

The last time the ship hospital docked in New York City was during the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorists attacks to provide relief to first responders.

But more help is still needed.

“The toughest weeks are ahead,” said de Blasio on Monday before asking the federal government, again, to send as many ventilators, N-95 masks, gloves, gowns, surgical masks and medical personnel as possible in order to add to the city’s stockpile. Having more supplies, de Blasio said, will prepare hospitals for the rising wave of coronavirus patients, which is expected to reach its apex in 12 to 19 days.

As of 10 a.m. on Monday, March 31, there are 36,221 cases of coronavirus in New York City, with 11,868 of those cases in Queens, 9,521 in Brooklyn, 6,830 in the Bronx, 5,877 in Manhattan and 2,091 in Staten Island, according to the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The number of deaths in New York City due to complications after contracting the virus, is now 790 with 256 of those deaths occurring in Queens, 188 in Brooklyn, 193 in the Bronx, 103 in Manhattan and 49 in Staten Island.

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