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Comfort receives supplies to support coronavirus response

Written by Nick Blenkey
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An MH-60S Seahawk assigned to the "Night Dippers" of Helicopter Sea Squadron (HSC) 5, brings supplies to the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adelola Tinubu)

Medical care providers aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) yesterday received critical supplies in support of COVID-19 response efforts in New York City.

The Comfort was originally intended to treat only surge cases of non-coronavirus patients sent by NYC area hospitals. However, with New York City on lockdown, there has been a dramatic decline in incidents such as traffic industries and shootings, and, as we reported earlier, the decision was taken to accept COVID-19 patients on the ship.

The day the change in mission was announced, ABC news reported that a Comfort crew member had tested positive for the virus and was currently in isolation aboard the ship.

“There is no impact to Comfort‘s mission, and this will not affect the ability for Comfort to receive patients,” ABC quoted a Navy statement as saying. “The ship is following protocols and taking every precaution to ensure the health and safety of all crewmembers and patients on board.”


The supplies received by the hospital ship yesterday included powered, air-purifying respirators that are vital to protecting the Comfort health care team who are treating COVID-19 cases, as well as other patients aboard the ship.

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Vernon Thomas, right, tests for a proper seal on respiratory protective equipment by administering a saccharine mist for Hospitalman David Zamarripa to detect during a fit test aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort .(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman)

“It provides an extra level of protection for our health care team that are at the highest risk for exposure to contagions,” said Cmdr. Todd Morris, director of the department for medical services. “It is a full face mask device that provides complete respiratory isolation from the surrounding environment, with a tube connected to a filtration system that is worn on the belt.”

The acquisition of these protective devices is another way that Comfort is ensuring mission capabilities, while also protecting its patients and crew. The supplies were delivered by an MH-60S Seahawk, assigned to the “Nightdippers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron FIVE (HSC- 5) stationed onboard Naval Station Norfolk.

“The safety of patients and crew aboard Comfort is our highest priority,” said Capt. Joseph O’Brien, mission commander, Task Force New York City. “We use full personal protection equipment precautions in accordance with CDC recommendations. We are receiving these items now due to the shift in patient acceptance and to ensure we maintain safety of all aboard Comfort.”


Meantime, the Los Angeles Times reported this morning that a sailor aboard sister hospital ship Mercy tested positive for COVID-19 and will be removed from the ship.

The sailor is isolated aboard the ship and will soon transfer to an off-ship isolation facility, said Cmdr. John Fage, a Third Fleet spokesman told the newspaper. Crew members with whom the sailor came into contact also will be isolated and removed from the ship, he said.

The sailor has not been in contact with patients, Fage said, adding that the positive test won’t affect the Mercy‘s ability to receive and treat patients.

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