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Navy hospital ship in New York with 1,000 beds has 20 patients

The USNS Comfort is only supposed to take non-coronavirus patients, and doctors in New York say there aren't many of those right now.

NEW YORK — A Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, is docked in Manhattan with 1,000 beds available to help New York City hospitals which are being overrun with coronavirus patients. As of Thursday night, 20 of those beds were reportedly being used since arriving on Monday.

In a telephone news briefing Thursday morning, commanding officer Capt. Patrick Amersbach said three of the beds were occupied. A Navy spokesperson later updated that number to 20, according to multiple news outlets.

The Comfort has been designated for patients who don’t have the virus but need care for other reasons. Amersbach reportedly said his orders are to only take patients who have tested negative for the coronavirus. He said if he was ordered to start accepting them, the ship could be reconfigured to allow that. But there is concern that if there is an outbreak of the virus on the ship, the medical staff could become infected.

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According to the New York Times, guidelines given to hospitals indicated 49 medical conditions that would exclude a patient from being brought on board. Also, patients are not brought by ambulance directly to the ship. They are first evaluated at hospitals -- including receiving a test for the virus -- before being transferred.

The Times notes that because so many people have isolated themselves in their homes, there are relatively few non-coronavirus patients coming in. There are fewer emergency room visits from people in car accidents, construction accidents or with gunshot wounds.

The Times reports that the Comfort's sister ship, the USNS Mercy, is in Los Angeles and currently had 15 beds filled as of Thursday.

Credit: AP
The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort docks in New York, Monday, March 30, 2020.