Navy hospital ship arrives in NYC to back up health systems

Coronavirus

In this Jan. 20, 2010 file photo, the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort is anchored off the coast of Haiti to support Operation Unified Response. On Wednesday, March, 18, 2020, President Donald Trump announced he will dispatch the Comfort to the New York City Harbor to provide New York City hospitals with relieve in taking on the COVID-19 virus. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Chelsea Kennedy/Released)

NEW YORK (AP) — A Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds arrived Monday in New York City as officials pressed for more federal help.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said President Donald Trump’s suggestion that thousands of medical masks are disappearing from New York City hospitals is “insulting” to front-line medical workers.

The latest coronavirus developments in New York:

HOSPITAL SHIP

A Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds arrived Monday morning in New York City to help relieve the coronavirus crisis gripping the city’s hospitals.

The USNS Comfort, which was sent to New York City after 9/11, will be used to treat non-coronavirus patients while hospitals treat people with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters the ship will relieve stress on city hospitals as the massive white vessel pulled into a cruise ship terminal off Manhattan. In addition to the 1,000 beds, the Comfort has 12 operating rooms that could be up and running within 24 hours.

The ship’s arrival comes as New York state’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak climbed Sunday above 1,000, less than a month after the first known infection in the state.

Most of those deaths have occurred in just the past few days.

New York City, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, reported Sunday that its toll had risen to 776. The total number of statewide deaths isn’t expected to be released until Monday, but with at least 250 additional deaths recorded outside the city as of Sunday morning, the state’s total fatalities was at least 1,026.

MEDICAL WORKER DEATHS

Two more New York City health care workers have died of the coronavirus, days after the first confirmed death.

De Blasio announced Sunday the deaths of Freda Ocran, a psych educator at Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx, and Theresa Lococo, a pediatric nurse at Kings County Hospital.

Ocran was previously the head nurse of the psych unit at Jacobi and was working, in part, to support her mother in Africa, de Blasio said.

On March 20, Ocran changed her profile picture on Facebook to include a mantra familiar to people on the front lines of the coronavirus fight: “I can’t stay home … I’m a healthcare worker.”

Lococo had worked for the city’s hospital system for 48 years, de Blasio said.

Last week, Mount Sinai West emergency room nurse Kious Kelly died Tuesday after a 10-day bout with the virus.

MEDICAL MASKS

De Blasio and others criticized Trump for suggesting with no clear evidence that thousands of medical masks are disappearing from New York City hospitals.

At a Sunday briefing, the president told reporters they should be asking, “Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door?”

Those remarks are “insulting” to hospital workers on the front lines of the city’s coronavirus crisis, de Blasio said Monday.

“It’s incredibly insensitive to people right now who are giving their all,” he said. “I don’t know what the president is talking about.”

Hospitals had warned staff early on during the outbreak to not take masks home with them, but no evidence has emerged of large-scale looting of supplies.

Kenneth Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, said in a statement that the workers “deserve better than their president suggesting that protective equipment is ‘going out the back door’ of New York hospitals.”

BAR BUSTED

Police in New York City have caught the first bar owner to violate a coronavirus shutdown by running a speakeasy, according to a news report on Monday.

The New York Post said that officers arrested 56-year-old Vasil Pando after they found a dozen people drinking and gambling at a Brooklyn sports bar that was supposed to keep its doors closed during the crisis.

It said Vasil was facing illegal sale of alcohol and other criminal charges. A name for an attorney wasn’t listed in court records on Monday.

The report comes a day after Blasio warned of more stringent social-distancing measures, including fines of up to $500 if they refused police orders to disperse. New Yorkers have “been warned and warned and warned again” and deserve fines “if they haven’t gotten the message by now,” he said.

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Associated Press writers Michael R. Sisak and Michael Hill contributed from New York and Albany, N.Y., respectively.

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