NEW YORK — The USNS Comfort left port in New York on Thursday, with its sights set back on Hampton Roads.
People on the banks of the Hudson waved gratefully as crews wrapped up their work in the city, and began the one- to three-day journey back home.
The Norfolk-based hospital ship was sent to New York City to help treat coronavirus patients there. New York is one of the COVID-19 epicenters in the U.S. where the number of cases is some of the highest in the country.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said last week that the Comfort had done its job and could be sent elsewhere -- a sign that the city's hospital system isn't being overwhelmed.
Data shows New York City hospitalizations associated with COVID-19 have fallen to their lowest level in recent weeks. The final patient aboard the Comfort was discharged on Sunday.
According to a spokesperson with the 2nd Fleet, the Comfort is returning to Norfolk on Saturday morning.
The Comfort arrived at New York City on March 30 and since that time treated 182 patients. About 120 of those patients have COVID-19. At least 115 of them have been discharged.
Comfort sailors say they're proud of the care they were able to provide the hard-hit New York area.
"I joined because I wanted to help people, and being able to do that on any mission is truly a gift," said MC2 Sara Eshleman.
"Oh, absolutely, it'll definitely be a story that I can tell to my family back home and future generations for a long time," said PNSN Aaron Roarx.
When they do get home, the 1,100-member crew will begin 14 days of "restriction of movement," as a precaution to protect themselves and others from any COVID exposure.
The ship and crew will return to a "Ready 5" status to remain ready for future tasking for COVID-19 operations in support of FEMA.