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Hospital ship USNS Comfort heads home to Norfolk on Thursday

Coast Guard assets, along with New York Police Department and New York Fire Department assets, provide a security escort for the USNS Comfort arrival into New York Harbor, March 30, 2020. Coast Guard Cutter Shrike, Coast Guard Cutter Sitkinak, Maritime Safety and Security Team New York, and crews from Coast Guard Station New York and Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod conducted the escort as the Comfort arrived in New York City to assist in the COVID-19 response. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Q. Hightower)

The hospital ship Comfort will leave New York City and head back to its Norfolk home on Thursday, the Navy said, exactly a month after it arrived.

The ship has been docked at Pier 90 in Manhattan since March 30, part of an effort to relieve the strain coronavirus has put on the city’s hospitals. First it accepted only non-COVID-19 patients, but quickly reversed course amid pressure from local officials.

Mariners physically separated the hospital from the rest of the ship by cordoning off doors and ladder wells on the main deck, Navy officials with Northern Command said in a news release Tuesday, “reconfiguring the ship to admit and treat all patients.”

The ship, which has more than 1,000 beds, discharged the last of its patients this week. The crew treated a total of 182 patients while in New York.

“Even as USNS Comfort departs NYC, the ship and its embarked medical task force remain prepared for future tasking,” officials wrote in the news release.

The Comfort is crewed by civilian mariners and gets most of its medical staff from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth.

Spokespeople for the Second Fleet did not respond to a reporter’s questions Tuesday about where the Comfort might go next or what will happen with Hampton Roads-based staff aboard when it gets back to Norfolk.

The ship will return to a “Ready 5” status to remain ready for future COVID-19 operations supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Navy said.


© 2020 The Virginian-Pilot