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First crew member on USNS Comfort tests positive for COVID-19

A crew member onboard the hospital ship Comfort has tested positive for the novel coronavirus on the same day President Donald Trump announced the ship would begin accepting COVID-19 patients.

The individual has since been moved into isolation onboard the ship, ABC News first reported.

Navy officials told ABC that the ship is currently following protocols designed to prevent the virus from spreading any further among crew and patients.

“There is no impact to Comfort’s mission, and this will not affect the ability for Comfort to receive patients,” officials said.

The crew member did not come into contact with any patients, Navy officials told ABC. Other sailors who have interacted with the infected crew member have tested negative.

The individual may have been asymptomatic when first boarding the ship in Norfolk, Virginia, the report said.

Navy officials previously confirmed the hospital ship’s screening process — 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 crew, 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.”

While the sailor’s case of COVID-19 is the first among the ship’s crew, it is not the only confirmed case that has found its way aboard Comfort.

Two days before the crew member tested positive, multiple patients who had been transferred to the ship from a facility in New York City were confirmed to have COVID-19.

The patients who boarded the Comfort Friday were reportedly not tested for the coronavirus until they were on the ship. Patients remained in isolation while awaiting test results, which take approximately 24 hours to come back.

Each patient who tested positive has since been removed from the ship and returned to New York City’s Javits Center to continue treatment.

The Comfort, which arrived March 30 in New York with a mission of treating non-COVID patients to alleviate the burden on the city’s increasingly overflowing hospitals, currently holds up to 1,000 hospital beds.

As of Saturday the ship had treated fewer than 30 people, a number sure to spike with the expected admittance of coronavirus patients.

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