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Gov. Cuomo welcomes USNS Comfort to NYC

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday welcomed the arrival of a Navy hospital ship that will relieve New York hospitals dealing with a rapidly expanding load of coronavirus patients.

The USNS Comfort will provide roughly 1,000 hospital beds, and 1,200 personnel to New York, Cuomo said on Twitter. It will be used to treat patients who don’t have COVID-19 to free up other hospital rooms for coronavirus patients, the governor has previously said.

President Donald Trump ordered the dispatch earlier this month of the USNS Comfort to New York and her twin, the USNS Mercy, to Los Angeles to assist with the outbreak there.

The USNS Mercy arrived in Los Angeles last Friday.

The vessels, which were transformed from hulking oil tankers, are nearly three football fields long and 10 stories high, making them the largest hospital ships in the world.

Cuomo has repeatedly warned that the coronavirus epidemic in New York threatens to overwhelm the health-care system.

Last week, he said the state estimates it will need 140,000 hospital beds by early to mid-April. The state normally has about 53,000 beds, he said. 

Temporary additions to the state’s hospital system, such as the use of the Comfort, are aimed at boosting the state’s capacity to treat patients.

New York is the hardest-hit part of the country so far, accounting for almost half of the more than 143,000 COVID-19 cases in the U.S. The virus has infected more than 60,600 people in New York, according to Johns Hopkins University, and killed at least 2,571 people across the U.S. 

As of Sunday night, local health officials confirmed more than 33,400 COVID-19 cases in New York City alone, comprising almost a quarter of all cases in the U.S.

The state has taken a number of steps to increase hospital capacity in the face of the pandemic.

Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the New York National Guard converted the Jacob K. Javits Center, which normally hosts events such as New York Comic Con, into four temporary hospitals.

The Army Corp of Engineers has been called in to identify other sites around the city and state that could be converted to help increase the state’s hospital capacity. 

On Sunday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the construction of an emergency field hospital in Central Park. That project is due to be completed by Tuesday. 

“We need to triple our hospital bed capacity in New York City by May,” de Blasio said in front of the Comfort on Monday. “It’s a daunting task, but we got a big, big boost with the arrival of the Comfort. This is like adding a whole ‘nother hospital to New York City.”

Both the Comfort and the Mercy have side ports to take on patients at sea as well as helicopter decks for air transport. The ships are so massive, each would be tantamount to the fourth-biggest hospital in the United States.

Each vessel is equipped with 12 operating rooms, a blood bank, a medical laboratory, a pharmacy, an optometry lab and a CT scanner.

Each has 15 patient wards, 80 ICU beds and 10 elevators to transfer patients between decks. 

— CNBC’s Amanda Macias contributed to this report.

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