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NYC Council Health Committee calls for opening of Javits Center, USNS Comfort to COVID-19 patients

The hospital ship Comfort passes by the Statue of Liberty this morning to help in the Covid-19 crisis. (Photo by Bruce Cotler)

BY BETH DEDMAN

City Council Health Committee Chair Mark Levine is asking federal authorities to open up the Javits Convention Center and the USNS Comfort to COVID-19 patients moving out of the Intensive Care Unit. 

The Javits Convention Center and USNS Comfort were originally intended to relieve the strain on the NYC healthcare system by diverting non-COVID-19-related patients away from the overwhelmed hospitals. 

“The current plan for the Comfort & Javits Center is to take non-COVID trauma patients, but this is not sustainable,” Levine said. “There are still huge numbers of recovering patients that can and need to be rotated out to a lower level of care. We need the beds on the Comfort and in the Javits Center to serve as surge beds for these COVID-19 patients coming out of ICU. I am calling on the federal authorities who oversee these facilities to change course and start using their capacity in the manner in which it is most needed.”

The Javits Convention Center has 2,500 beds. The USNS Comfort has 1,000 beds, 12 operating rooms and 1,000 medical officers onboard. Only 20 patients had been transferred to the USNS Comfort as of April 2, according to the New York Times. 

Levine says there is an increasing strain on NYC hospitals because of a stream of arrivals of acutely ill COVID-19 patients and an inability to discharge patients coming out of ICU. 

“Every element of the city’s healthcare system is under unprecedented strain,” Levine said. “The mounting overflow we are seeing in city hospitals is a simple math problem: more COVID-19 patients are coming in than are being discharged. Hospitals need to be able to discharge COVID-19 patients who are no longer critical, but currently, there is nowhere for these recovering patients to be discharged to. These patients stay on for much longer than normal patients and they are taking up hospital capacity that is needed for incoming patients.”

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