Military Doctors Are Now Deploying Directly to NYC Hospitals

USNS Comfort transits the Hudson River Channel
The hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) transits the Hudson River Channel as the ship arrives in New York City in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts, March 30, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo/Sara Eshleman)

The military has started deploying 1,100 additional doctors, nurses and medical aides to New York City, and a "few hundred" of them will work in 11 overburdened local hospitals where staffs are exhausted from the battle against coronavirus, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday.

The majority of the additional personnel from Navy and Air Force medical units will report to the Javits Convention Center on Manhattan's West Side, but others are going to local facilities where the needs and risks are greatest, Esper said on CNN's "State of the Union."

A total of about 600 personnel from Army medical units at Fort Campbell in Kentucky and Fort Hood in Texas have already deployed to New York City, according to the Army.

At a White House news conference Saturday, President Donald Trump said 1,000 additional military medical personnel would be going to New York City at his direction. But Esper said the number had been boosted to 1,100 after discussions with city and state officials.

"The bulk of them will go to the Javits Center, and then as of late yesterday we agreed to deploy a few hundred of them to 11 New York City hospitals that are also seeing a deficiency when it comes to medical staff," he said.

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He did not name the hospitals, but some in the city, including Lenox Hill Hospital on Manhattan's East Side and Elmhurst General Hospital in Queens, have refrigerator trucks parked outside to deal with the growing number of deaths from coronavirus.

In previous news conferences, Trump has pointed to the dire situation at Elmhurst General and noted that he grew up nearby in the Queens section called Jamaica Estates.

The huge Javits Center has been converted by the Army Corps of Engineers into a makeshift hospital for 2,900 non-COVID 19 patients. But before any of those patients arrived, the decision was made to convert Javits again to take in coronavirus-positive patients in light of the escalating crisis.

Once the conversion is completed, the Javits Center would be ready to take in, possibly as early as this week, up to 2,500 coronavirus positive patients, Esper said.

At a news conference Saturday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the Javits Center would be entirely funded and staffed by the federal government.

"We will soon be taking over the Javits Center -- a 2,500-bed capacity -- to show you how all in we are," Esper said Sunday. "The United States military will soon be running the largest hospital in the United States."

In addition to the Javits Center, the 1,000-bed hospital ship USNS Comfort is now docked at Pier 90 on the Hudson River to treat non-coronavirus patients. To date, though, the ship has seen only a trickle of patients thus far, according to Pentagon officials.

New York State has been the hardest-hit in the nation by the coronavirus, and the five boroughs of New York City are the epicenter within the state.

More than 2,250 deaths from coronavirus had been recorded in New York City as of midday Sunday, compared to a total of more than 9,130 nationwide, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

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