The USNS Comfort, a “floating hospital” ship, arrived Monday in Manhattan in a welcome sight for state and local officials working to combat the coronavirus.
The Comfort, with about 1,000 beds, is expected to free up space in hospitals trying to treat COVID-19 patients.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said 750 beds will be put in play “immediately” to relieve pressure on the city hospital system.
The ship is expected to start taking patients 24 hours after its arrival in New York, according to the U.S. Navy.
“This was supposed to take two weeks to make it possible for this ship to dock — they did it in eight days,” Mr. de Blasio said, addressing reporters near the ship. “And that means help has arrived quicker and we’re going to be able to do the life-saving work right now.”
He estimated that New York City needs to triple its hospital bed capacity by May. He said they started the month with about 20,000 working hospital beds in New York City.
“It is a daunting task, but we got a big, big boost. … This is like adding a whole [other] hospital to New York City,” Mr. de Blasio said.
The mayor said entire hospitals will have to effectively transform into all-intensive care units to get through the coming weeks.
“That’s how dire, that’s how tough this situation is,” he said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said the whole state could need 140,000 hospital beds and that the current supply is about 53,000 beds.
Earlier, Mr. Cuomo thanked people who made the Comfort’s arrival possible.
“We are very grateful for what the people of this nation have done for us, and we will return the favor,” the governor said.
New York City has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, with more than 33,700 positive coronavirus cases and at least 776 deaths, according to state figures and a tracker from Johns Hopkins University.
The Comfort left Naval Station Norfolk with more than 1,100 Navy medical personnel and support staff, according to the Navy.
President Trump on Saturday had delivered remarks at a send-off ceremony in Virginia.
On Sunday, the president said it departed three weeks ahead of schedule after undergoing some maintenance.
“It was an incredible thing to see,” Mr. Trump said.
The USNS Mercy, the Comfort’s sister ship, arrived in Los Angeles last week, with officials issuing a similar massage that the critical bed space will free up hospitals elsewhere to focus more on people who have tested positive for the coronavirus.
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