USNS Comfort returns to Naval Station Norfolk

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Norfolk-based USNS Comfort and its crew members returned to its homeport in Hampton Roads early Saturday morning after departing from New York Thursday.

The Navy hospital ship has spent the past month docked in New York Harbor. The crew was sent there to help with COVID-19 response.

Captain Patrick Amersbach, who is the military treatment commanding officer for the Comfort, says the original mission was to help with patients who did not have COVID-19 — but that quickly changed once they arrived.

“We adjusted like we do in the Navy to take care of that population. We saw everything the city saw. We saw very complex incubation. We saw multi-system organ failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome,” he said. “Whatever they had, we had as well. We had almost 25 patients on ventilators at the same time. We had dialysis machines set up at the same time.”

Amersbach and Captain Joseph O’Brien, who is the overall commander for the Mission Taskforce NYC, says they were running the largest and busiest ICU in the Department of the Defense last month.

The crew of 1,200 — which included 75 civilian mariners, active duty and reserve Navy personnel, one marine, and two army pharmacists — handled the more serious cases.

10 On Your Side’s Kara Dixon was there for the homecoming.

The Comfort spent 31 days at Pier 90 in New York City and treated just under 200 people. 

Eleven people treated on the ship died, according to Department of Defense officials.

Amersbach says Army doctors treated about 1,000 patients who had less severe health issues.

The Navy said that those treated on the Comfort did not receive a hospital bill and received some of the best care in the world. 

The ship’s pharmacy also prepared 9,000-plus oral and intravenous medications and helped distribute 264,441 personal protective equipment supplies and 860 patient trays.

The final patient left the ship on Sunday and the crew began preparations to return to Naval Station Norfolk for its next life-saving mission.

The commanding officers are proud of the heroic work their crew did. Amersbach says it reached high levels of heroism that he has never witnessed during his service.

“We all watched the news. We all saw what was going on in the fear with taking care of COVID positive patients. They did it in a very professional and compassionate manner. I couldn’t be more proud of each and everyone aboard that ship,” he said.

During its trip back to Virginia, O’Brien says all onboard were tested for COVID-19 and the tests we sent to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth.

“We don’t have anyone symptomatic. We don’t have anyone who had an indication of COVID. Regardless, we tested everybody,” he said.

Upon leaving the Comfort, all crew will remain under a 14-day restriction. They will either remain on the Comfort, at their homes, or will receive other lodging accommodations during that restriction of movement (ROM) period.

On Friday, Chopper 10 got video of the Comfort in the Chesapeake Bay.


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