NEW YORK - The New York Times reported Thursday there are only 20 patients on the Norfolk-based Navy hospital ship the USNS Comfort, which is currently docked in New York.
The Times originally reported that there were only three patients aboard the ship, but a Navy spokesperson said the number had increased to 20 by later in the day.
Times reporter Michael Schwirtz reported that bureaucratic hurdles and military protocols have stopped the Comfort from accepting many patients.
New York hospitals received guidelines that included a list of 49 medical conditions that would exclude a patient from being admitted to the ship.
For example, the Times reported, ambulances cannot take patients directly to the Comfort. First, they must deliver patients to a city hospital for a lengthy evaluation, which includes a test for the virus, and then pick them up again so they can be taken to the ship.
News 3 reported that the 1,000-bed ship's staff would not treat patients with coronavirus, but would help with other patients' health needs.
President Donald Trump was in Norfolk on March 28 to see off the Comfort as it headed north.
During his visit, Trump said our country is at war with "an invisible enemy." He said he wanted to express his gratitude to the dedicated service members who would be on the front line of this fight.
The president described the hospital ship is "a 70,000-ton message of hope and solidarity to the incredible people of New York."
The Comfort is one of two Navy hospital ships run by Military Sealift Command. Its sister ship, the USNS Mercy, is based in San Diego. The Mercy is providing aid in Los Angeles.