Navy hospital ship arrives in NYC to back up health systems

1010 WINS Newsroom
March 30, 2020 - 6:52 pm
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NEW YORK (AP) — A Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds arrived Monday in New York City as the number of deaths in the state from the coronavirus outbreak climbed quickly. The disease continued to claim the lives of health care workers. Mayor Bill de Blasio said President Donald Trump’s suggestion that thousands of medical masks are disappearing from New York City hospitals is “insulting” to front-line medical workers.

The latest coronavirus developments in New York:

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SHIP ARRIVES AS TOLL RISES

A Navy hospital ship docked in New York City on Monday as the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the state soared to a “beyond staggering” 1,218.

The 1,000-bed USNS Comfort will be used as a “relief valve,” treating non-coronavirus patients while the city’s increasingly stressed hospitals handle people with COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Shortly after it arrived at a Manhattan pier, the governor announced that the statewide death toll had risen by 253 in a single day.

"That's a lot of loss, that's a lot of pain, that's a lot of tears, that's a lot of grief that people all across this state are feeling," Cuomo said.

Most of the state's fatalities have occurred in just the past 10 days. Cuomo said the ultimate number of COVID-19-related deaths will be staggering, then added: "To me, we're beyond staggering already."

The Comfort, which was also sent to New York after the 9/11 terror attacks, has 12 operating rooms that could be up and running within 24 hours, officials said.

The ship is docked just north of a temporary hospital constructed inside the cavernous Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. State and city officials are trying to increase hospital capacity by up to 87,000 beds to handle the outbreak.

"We bring a message to all New Yorkers – now, your Navy is returned and we are with you committed in this fight,” said Rear Admiral John Mustin.

There are 9,500 people in New York currently hospitalized for COVID-19, with more than 2,300 in intensive care. More than 66,000 New Yorkers have tested positive for the virus.

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TEMPORARY MORGUES

As the outbreak has worsened, some hospitals are now parking refrigerated trailers outside their doors to collect the remains of the dead.

At two Brooklyn hospitals, videos posted online by bystanders and a medical worker showed workers wearing protective masks and gowns loading bodies onto trailers from gurneys parked on the sidewalk.

The office of the city's medical examiner confirmed on Monday that it has started using a temporary morgue set up last week in Manhattan to provide emergency capacity as the city’s permanent morgues fill up. The site near Bellevue Hospital includes a large tent and refrigeration units.

The U.S. military has sent 42 people to the city to help the medical examiner’s office deal with an influx of bodies.

Thomas Von Essen, the regional administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Monday his agency was also providing refrigeration trucks to the city.

“We in New York City have a desperate need for help over in Queens,” said Von Essen, who was the city’s fire commissioner on Sept. 11, 2001. “And we are working on that as we speak, there’s folks trying to put it all together.”

Queens has been the hardest hit of the five boroughs, with an outsized number of coronavirus cases and deaths.

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THE TOLL

Two more New York City health care workers have died of the coronavirus, days after the first confirmed death.

De Blasio announced Sunday the deaths of Freda Ocran, a psych educator at Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx, and Theresa Lococo, a pediatric nurse at Kings County Hospital.

Ocran was previously the head nurse of the psych unit at Jacobi and was working, in part, to support her mother in Africa, de Blasio said.

On March 20, Ocran changed her profile picture on Facebook to include a mantra familiar to people on the front lines of the coronavirus fight: “I can’t stay home ... I’m a healthcare worker.”

Dr. James T. Goodrich, a pediatric neurosurgeon who once led a team of 40 doctors at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx in an operation to separate 13-month-old twin boys conjoined at the head, died of complications related to coronavirus on Monday.

“His expertise and ability were second only to his kind heart and manner,” Montefiore Medicine CEO Dr. Philip Ozuah said in a statement. The hospital didn't say if Goodrich had recently treated people with COVID-19.

Also, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said five more of its employees had died from the coronavirus. Officials announced the deaths of subway system workers Scott Elijah, Caridad Santiago, and Victor Zapana, and two bus system employees, Ernesto Hernandez and Warren Tucker. The deaths of a subway conductor and a bus operator from the virus had been announced last week.

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NYPD IMPACT

Nearly 5,200 New York Police Department officers were out sick on Monday, about 14.4% of the approximately 36,000-person force. In all, 930 members of the department have tested positive for the disease.

Several have died, including a school safety agent who perished Sunday, a detective and two other civilian workers.

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MEDICAL MASKS

De Blasio and others criticized Trump for suggesting with no clear evidence that thousands of medical masks are disappearing from New York City hospitals.

At a Sunday briefing, the president told reporters they should be asking, “Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door?”

Those remarks are “insulting” to hospital workers on the front lines of the city’s coronavirus crisis, de Blasio said Monday.

“It’s incredibly insensitive to people right now who are giving their all," he said. "I don't know what the president is talking about.”

Hospitals had warned staff early on during the outbreak to not take masks home with them, but no evidence has emerged of large-scale looting of supplies.

Kenneth Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, said in a statement that the workers “deserve better" than the president's comment.

Cuomo told reporters he didn't know what the president's back-door comment meant.

“If he wants to make an accusation, then let him make an accusation,” Cuomo said. "But I don't know what he's trying to say by inference.”

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BAR BUSTED

Police in New York City have caught the first bar owner to violate a coronavirus shutdown by running a speakeasy, according to a news report on Monday.

The New York Post said that officers arrested 56-year-old Vasil Pando after they found a dozen people drinking and gambling at a Brooklyn sports bar that was supposed to keep its doors closed during the crisis.

It said Vasil was facing illegal sale of alcohol and other criminal charges. A name for an attorney wasn't listed in court records on Monday.

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Associated Press writers Michael R. Sisak and Michael Hill contributed from New York and Albany, N.Y., respectively.

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