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Navy hospital ship crews eager to treat patients

So far, traffic has been slow. By midday Thursday, the USNS Mercy had treated 13 patients, while the USNS Comfort had only treated three.

NEW YORK — They have begun treating patients, but not very many.

The Navy hospital ships Comfort and Mercy are in place -- in New York and Los Angeles, respectively -- and ready to roll. But so far, business has been slow.

As of midday Thursday, the Mercy had treated 13 patients, and the Comfort had treated three.

Currently, the hospital ships' mission is to treat only non-COVID-19 patients in order to free up local hospitals on-shore to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are accepting only non-COVID-19 patients," said Capt Patrick Amersbach, commanding officer of the Comfort. "If that changes in the future, we'll adjust accordingly, but right now that's who we're operating."

The sailors are ready to their part, whatever that ends up being.

"What makes me excited to be here on this mission is just to help as many people as possible," said Dustin Fulton, a Navy radiologist. "I know right now the world is kind of scared, and being able to bring comfort to a lot of these patients and let them know we're here for them, it's a big thing for me"

The ship's chaplain says the crew is fired up.

"We're often known for our ability to bring lethal force," said LTJG Johnny Bravo. "But now, the world is going to see is bring our greatest care and comfort to our fellow citizens. And to be a part of that is is so humbling and I'm so grateful for it."

The Norfolk-based Comfort has 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms and has more than 1,100 personnel embarked for the New York mission, including Navy medical and support staff assembled from 22 commands, as well as over 70 civil service mariners.

The Navy says there are no anticipated costs to civilian patients for being treated on the ships.

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