'By mistake': Coronavirus patients brought aboard USNS Comfort that was supposed to treat only trauma patients
Medical officer aboard the 1,000-bed medical ship said they had been fighting to keep the vessel virus-free
It has emerged that multiple coronavirus patients were accidentally transferred to the military hospital ship docked in New York City that was meant to be used for trauma patients only.
According to a report by Fox News, less than five patients who tested positive for the virus were transferred into USNS Comfort from the city's Javits Center on Friday, April 3.
Speaking to the outlet, three US officials said initial screenings of the patients at the time of their arrival did not indicate they were positive for COVID-19.
The medical officer aboard the 1,000-bed USNS Comfort said they had been fighting to keep the vessel virus-free after it arrived in New York City on Monday, March 30.
As part of the ship's protocol, the said patients were part of a group of dozen people who were tested for the virus when they came aboard USNS Comfort. The group was isolated after testing and spent the night on the rescue vessel.
When the swab test results came on April 5, the coronavirus patients were transported back to the Javits Center.
New York is the hardest-hit state in the US as it recorded the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths.
New York City itself has recorded 2,064 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Previously deployed at various conflict and natural disaster zones, the USNS Comfort was sent to Manhattan to care for patients other than those diagnosed with the coronavirus, thereby easing the strain on health centers across the city.
According to the ship's press officer Lieutenant Commander Amelia Umayam, it had received 21 patients by March 3.
The risk of transmission to the ship's crew due to the patients who tested positive is "low," one official told Fox News on condition of anonymity.
"We were prepared with a contingency plan in case we received patients that later tested positive," he explained. "Immediately upon arrival the patients were isolated while awaiting the test results."
Meanwhile, medical officer Captain Patrick Amersbach explained that they "consider the USNS Comfort to be in a bubble" due to the procedures taken by the ship's crew to shield it from the virus.
But Michael Dowling, the CEO of New York's largest hospital system Northwell Health, said it was a "joke" that the rescue vessel wasn't accepting coronavirus cases.
"If I'm blunt about it, it's a joke," he told The New York Times. "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."
Considering the dire need for medical personnel in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio urged President Trump to launch a national enlistment that would send medical professionals from other states to the epicenter.
As of now, close to 1,200 crew members are sitting idle aboard the USNS Comfort with a lack of patients. This is due to the strict protocols in place that has seen them refusing to take in patients with certain medical conditions, despite the drastic need.