Patients onboard the Navy’s hospital ship Comfort tested positive for COVID-19 after being transferred Friday from a facility in New York City, Fox News first reported.
The ship, which arrived with a mission of treating non-COVID patients to alleviate the burden on the city’s increasingly overflowing hospitals, accepted “less than five” patients who were infected, officials told Fox News.
Initial screenings prior to boarding the ship did not reveal that the patients had contracted the virus.
The Navy previously confirmed its screening process for boarding the hospital ship — one instituted in accordance to CDC guidance — consists only of a temperature check and “a series of questions addressing [the] member’s recent health and contact history.”
Such procedures have been criticized by many, including a medical professional and spouse of one of the Comfort’s sailors, as being considerably inadequate.
“We know that the traditional symptoms don’t show themselves the same way in the young, healthy population as they do in the older and medically fragile,” said the medical professional, who spoke to Navy Times on the condition of anonymity.
“We also know how dangerous of a breeding ground a ship can be for a highly contagious pathogen. I work for our local hospital and am caring for patients everyday. I have no idea what I’ve been in contact with and have no idea what I’ve shared with my husband, and therefore, have no idea what he might have carried onto that ship.”
The patients who boarded the Comfort Friday were reportedly not tested for COVID-19 until they were on the ship. Patients remained in isolation while awaiting test results, which take approximately 24 hours to come back.
“While admitting patients who were transferred to USNS Comfort for treatment, a few patients tested positive for COVID-19,” Navy officials told Fox News.
“The Comfort has infection control procedures that are followed just like hospitals ashore. Our medical experts on board are well prepared for cases like this, and have taken the appropriate precautionary measures. The patients were isolated and received care aboard the ship.”
An additional patient onboard the Comfort tested positive on Saturday, Fox News reported.
Each patient has since been removed from the ship and returned to New York City’s Javits Center to continue treatment, the report said.
Navy officials do not anticipate the mishap being a catalyst for the virus spreading onboard the Comfort due to isolation protocols that were followed, Fox News reported. Any areas the patients may have come in contact with are being deep-cleaned.
The Comfort, which can hold up to 1,000 hospital beds, has treated fewer than 30 patients since arriving in New York on Monday.
Military officials are reportedly considering updating the ship’s mission to accommodate coronavirus patients.
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.