President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the USNS Comfort, the hospital ship deployed to provide emergency support for health-care workers battling the coronavirus, will depart its station in New York City to get "ready for its next mission."
Trump's announcement followed a meeting with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo that focused on testing. Cuomo and Trump both said after the meeting that they agreed to "work together" to double New York's rate of Covid-19 testing to 40,000 tests per day.
"I've asked Andrew if we could bring the Comfort back to its base in Virginia so that we could have it for other locations, and he said we would be able to do that," Trump said at the press briefing.
A statement by Northern Command, the Pentagon's lead for Covid-19 operations in the United States, outlined that the next mission for the ship will be at the direction of FEMA.
"We are proud of the tremendous work of the crew of the USNS Comfort in confronting COVID-19 in New York. We will work with FEMA as they assess requirements for the Comfort and its high acuity medical capability and - more importantly - the committed doctors, nurses and medical providers who stand ready to confront the virus," wrote Navy Lt. Cmdr. Mike Hatfield, NORAD and NORTHCOM spokesman, in a statement.
Shortly after arriving from its home port in Norfolk, Virginia, the military's floating lifesaver was adjusted to receive coronavirus patients, halving its 1,000-bed capacity.
As of Friday, 71 of the USNS Comfort's 500 beds were occupied.
Last week, President Donald Trump said the lack of patients on the ship showed that New York City was healing.
"They didn't need it, that's a good thing. That's such a good thing. I think that shows that New York's making progress," Trump said.
The Pentagon deployed the USNS Comfort to New York City and the USNS Mercy to Los Angeles to help with the surging coronavirus cases.
The twin vessels, which were transformed from hulking oil tankers into 1,000-bed floating lifesavers, are nearly three football fields long and 10 stories high, making them indisputably the largest hospital ships in the world. Both ships 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.
The vessels are 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.
The coronavirus, which originated near the city of Wuhan in China's Hubei province, has infected more than 2.5 million people around the world, killing at least 171,810, data from Johns Hopkins University show.
The U.S. has confirmed more infections and deaths from Covid-19 than any other nation: More than 788,900 U.S. cases and at least 42,485 deaths have been confirmed, according to Johns Hopkins.