President Donald Trump has repeatedly touted the role of two Navy hospital ships — one in New York City and one in Los Angeles — in fighting the coronavirus crisis.
The USNS Comfort, in New York City, had 20 patients, while the USNS Mercy, in Los Angeles, had 15. Each ship has 1,000 beds and more than 1,000 crew members.
The ships were meant to relieve the strain on hospitals in the two cities by treating non-coronavirus patients. However, the ships have strict guidelines about which patients they’ll accept, and because the cities are largely shut down, there are fewer non-coronavirus emergencies.
“If I’m blunt about it, it’s a joke,” Michael Dowling, the head of New York’s largest hospital system, told the NYT. “Everyone can say, ‘Thank you for putting up these wonderful places and opening up these cavernous halls.’ But we’re in a crisis here, we’re in a battlefield.”
Dowling and others are now calling for USNS Comfort to accept coronavirus patients.
“It’s pretty ridiculous,” Dowling said. “If you’re not going to help us with the people we need help with, what’s the purpose?”