Coronavirus News: USNS Comfort to start treating COVID-19 patients from New York, New Jersey

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday afternoon that President Donald Trump approved his request to allow the USNS Comfort to treat COVID-19 patients.

The boat arrived with great fanfare last week and has sat largely empty of patients since then, but the USNS Comfort is now finally ready to put its 1,000 beds to use.

"They specifically didn't want to do this, have patients that were affected with this horrible disease or whatever, the plague, because frankly, it's a plague, that's exactly what it is," Trump said.

But after urgent pleas from Cuomo, Trump gave the order for the ship to treat virus-infected patients both from New York and New Jersey.

The ship and the Javits Center were both originally set up to handle the overflow of non-COVID-19 patients to help alleviate the local hospitals.

However, it was soon realized the massive military mobilization was next to useless with city hospitals groaning under the weight.

"As it turns out, we don't have many non-COVID symptoms because when you close everything down, the silver lining was traffic accidents, crime went down. So, we really need help with the COVID patients," Cuomo said.

Cuomo said with the additional 1,000 beds on the comfort and the 2,500 at the Javits Center, it should be a major relief for the overtaxed hospital system.

The Navy said late Monday night that a crewmember on the USNS Comfort has tested positive for COVID-19. The crewmember is not a health care worker who came in contact with a patient.

That means the crewmember was asymptomatic when the ship left port last weekend and has been in contact with other crew members over the past 10 days.

"There is no impact to Comfort's mission, and this will not affect the ability for Comfort to receive patients," the Navy said in a statement. "The ship is following protocols and taking every precaution to ensure the health and safety of all crewmembers and patients on board."

So far more than 4,700 New Yorkers have died from COVID-19.

But there is reason to have hope: over the last two days, it seems the death rate has leveled.

It could be evidence of the ever-so-elusive flattening of the curve. Other good signs include that hospitalizations are down, ICU admissions are down and daily intubations are down.

However, those signs aren't good enough at Maimonides Hospital in Borough Park which sits in one of the city's hardest-hit neighborhoods.

At least 80 percent of the entire hospital is COVID positive.

The staff says it's horrifying.

"To see the death and to see (sigh) I wish we could do more but COVID is a nightmare. I don't know I just can't wait for it to be over," said nurse Rivka Mintz. "I have many days when I walk home and I'm crying, I'm sobbing, because it's like, what else can I do to make this better?"

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