Crew member aboard USNS Comfort tests positive for coronavirus

A crew member aboard the USNS Comfort, the Navy hospital ship docked at Pier 90 on Manhattan's West Side, has tested positive for coronavirus, a US Navy representative confirmed to FOX 5 News.

It was not clear when the crew member came down with the virus. All personnel on board the ship were screened for coronavirus before it arrived in New York harbor last week. The crew member may have been asymptomatic at the time of the screening, according to officials aboard the ship.

The crew member had no contact with patients and other crew members who had contact with them. The crew members were to remain in isolation for several days out of an abundance of caution. The ship was thoroughly cleaned and would continue with its mission.

The Navy hospital ship has treated only a handful of non-COVID patients since docking on the West Side of Manhattan a week ago. It will begin to shift its mission to treating patients with the coronavirus, officials said on Monday.

President Trump authorized the USNS Comfort to start accepting COVID-19 patients, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday evening.

"This will provide much-needed relief to our over stressed hospital systems," the governor tweeted.

Originally, the military said the ship would provide "a full spectrum of medical care to include general surgeries, critical care and ward care for adults" so that local hospitals could focus on COVID patients and not have to use ICUs and ventilators for patients that aren't infected with the coronavirus.

In reality, few cases were being referred to the Navy facility which is equipped with 1,000 beds. Most elective surgeries have been canceled. Crime and accidents are down so hospitals are seeing fewer trauma patients. But COVID-19 is overwhelming the facilities.