# HomelandDefense # InThisTogether # COVID19 U.S. Navy U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) So whether or not it is an issue, I'm not sure. 110826-F-CF975-046 PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Aug. 26, 2011) Capt. So just to follow up on that, how would you actually -- could you actually take COVID patients? John R. Rotruck relieved Capt. Is that because you're just not receiving the referrals from the hospitals? But I think that's a good news story for us. I would rather, as we go through a -- as we go through trying to take on non-COVID patients, if directed, we will go ahead and move into a planning period for that potential move. So, Captain Rotruck, the floor is yours, sir. Navy Capt. During many of his tours, he's led medical divisions. David Murrin, Ship’s Master USNS Comfort. With respect to misinformation, I'm not personally aware of any misinformation campaign with respect to the mission that we're doing here. “Our team did a great job working with partners from 11 different countries and non-governmental organizations,” said Capt. Commanding Officer USNS COMFORT (T-AH 20) Medical Treatment Facility Virginia Beach, VA. Catherine Spanbauer. Patrick Amersbach is a graduate of Bowie High School. AMERSBACH: This is Captain Amersbach. The Department of Defense provides the military forces needed to deter war and ensure our nation's security. They're working in conjunction with FEMA to ensure that the hospital-to-hospital transfers are occurring as smoothly as possible, and again, to make sure that those patients that are coming aboard the ship are suitable for our environment, as well as right now, COVID-19-free. AMERSBACH: Okay. CAPT. Capt. “Their morale is very high,” Amersbach explained. CAPT. CAPT. Patrick Amersbach, Commanding Officer of the USNS Comfort, told Warrior in an interview. So again, it's -- it's people who have been in traumatic accidents who are now recovering, it's people with gastrointestinal and heart and lung problems. If you could both provide an update on how many patients both of the ships have treated. CAPT. CAPT. “I'm overwhelmed by the amount of support,” he said of the messages he’s received while deployed in NYC. The professionals aboard USNS Mercy left Naval Base San Diego March 23rd after receiving a five-day notice of this deployment. Can you tell us exactly when the -- the Comfort started accepting patients? There is no billing of patients for care delivered on the hospital ships. Patrick Amersbach was born and raised in the DMV, and now he's playing a major role in the response to COVID-19. He says he still has friends here, and told WUSA9 the lessons he learned growing up in Maryland are still with him at the helm of the USNS Comfort. AMERSBACH: Yeah, this is Captain Amersbach on the Comfort. B.J. Patrick Amersbach - Commanding Officer - USNS Comfort. CAPT. Authorities. CAPT. Kevin Buckley, commanding officer, USNS Comfort Medical Treatment Facility. Shortly after the ship sailed into New York Harbor, officials said they simply weren't getting enough of them. Commanding Officer: Captain Timothy Quast Captain Tim Quast is a third generation Naval Officer who graduated from Tulane University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering. USNS Comfort commanding officer on arrival in NYC: 'Excited to be here and excited to get started' Fox NewsUSNS Comfort Arrives In New York City Harbor For Coronavirus Assistance | NBC News NBC NewsU.S. Like civilian hospitals, the Comfort runs an around-the-clock operation with specialized medical staff. CAPT. I mean, it's a ship. ROTRUCK: And Captain Rotruck here, just to echo that our supply lines are always intact in the Department of Defense and with the Navy, in particular, so we're -- we're getting supplies as we expect. But again, I really can't speculate on that at this point. Commanding Officer USNS COMFORT (T-AH 20) Medical Treatment Facility Virginia Beach, VA. Catherine Spanbauer. Captain Patrick K. Amersbach, commanding officer of the Comfort, told WCBS 880 that they are planning on accepting patients within 24 hours of arriving in New York City. BOWIE, Md. So as the Mercy had mentioned, we are following the orders from the Department of Defense as they work with other federal agencies. Captain Amersbach, I just -- I couldn't hear, I'm on the line. ROTRUCK: Captain Rotruck speaking for Mercy here. Bruce Boynton, commanding officer of the Medical Treatment Facility aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20).jpg 2,100 × 1,406; 349 KB “Teamwork really has made a difference, something that I think I carried on from my time in Bowie into the military.”. Making an impact is the whole purpose of this mission – the hospitals in New York were simply overrun and overwhelmed by the pandemic. CAPT. And -- and -- and the second part to that is why were both ships rushed to both cities, given that it appears that you guys are only treating a handful of patients right now? How would you adjust to bring COVID-19 patients onto either Mercy or Comfort? AMERSBACH: Yes, I apologize, our call got dropped on our end. Notifications can be turned off anytime in the browser settings. Each has the capacity to fill 1,000 beds. Captain John R. Rotruck, Commanding Officer, Medical Treatment Facility USNS Mercy; Captain Patrick Amersbach, Commanding Officer, Medical Treatment Facility USNS Comfort. And then finally, we have a lot of measures in place to make sure that we remain a COVID-free ship. CAPT. Patrick Amersbach, the commanding officer of the treatment facility aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort, told "Bill Hemmer Reports" Monday that he should be ready to receive patients Tuesday. The Bowie native has spent almost 30 years in the Navy. Credit: Courtesy | Date Taken: 04/02/2020 Navy Capt. Rachel Haltner of her duties as commanding officer, Medical Treatment Facility (MTF), USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), March 30. When you all deployed, you stated specifically that you would not be doing obstetric or pediatric cases but with the number of patients being relatively low and the problem of women giving birth not being allowed to have somebody with them in a hospital, will you be changing that from -- priority at all, do you think? BOWIE, Md. Download this stock image: Capt. “We follow the same CDC guidelines, in addition to that of DOD to protect the crew,” he said. Please, when asking questions, identify yourself and your outlet for the record, as they are on the phone, as well, and cannot see you. So right now, our mission, as assigned by the Department of Defense in support of FEMA, is to accept non-COVID-19 patients. I -- given some of the shortages in medical supplies, particularly in New York City, I mean, I think there's images of PPE, assigned PPE being like a Yankees poncho for at least one -- one case. “We social distance as much as possible. I'm Captain Patrick Amersbach, commanding officer of the military treatment facility aboard the USNS Comfort. The USNS Comfort had a similar mission in deploying to New York City. Thanks for joining us today. STAFF: All right, gentlemen, thank you very much for your time. 3:00 p.m. Media will have the opportunity to conduct interviews on the pier with Capt. Hi, Captain Rotruck from the Mercy here. The USNS hospital ship Comfort is seen docked at Pier 90 on Manhattan's West Side during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., April 3, 2020. Capt. — USNS Comfort Capt. AMERSBACH: Thanks for the question. Are you having an issue with that? David Weiss, commanding officer of the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), explains to distinguished visitors the functions of a CT scan during Continuing Promise 2011. USNS Comfort to begin treating coronavirus patients. Q: I don't, though; I'm on -- I'm on mute. The criteria for acceptance has been shared, both through FEMA and local authorities. The USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy also have medical labs, CAT scans, oxygen-producing plants and a hanger deck able to land the largest military helicopters, Navy officials said. Catherine Spanbauer Analyst at United States Department of … For the folks on the phone, good morning. They include neurologists, pulmonologists and critical care and internal medicine specialists. Thank you for that series of questions. The Comfort was sent to relieve some of that stress. I see faces and names that I haven't seen in a long, long time, so I’m ecstatic for that. What -- what is the range of injuries? As the team from up and down the East Coast continues to watch the COVID-19 trends, Amersbach added they'll be on the ship, ready to help for as long as they're needed. WCBS 880's Steve Scott spoke with Capt. He began his career as a Surface Warfare officer serving aboard USS COWPENS (CG-63) in San Diego and USS MOBILE BAY (CG-53) in Yokosuka, Japan. CAPT. And how are you testing for COVID-19 in the patients that are coming to you so you're sure that they don't have COVID-19 when you're treating them, especially since the latest guidance is that most people can be carriers without knowing they have it or without having a fever. How much -- how integrated are you with the medical systems in terms of sharing equipment, sharing supplies and responding to needs of some of the local hospitals systems, not necessarily with patients but with materiel? The need for treating those with coronavirus was greater. … CAPT. ROTRUCK: So Captain Rotruck here, speaking on the Mercy side with respect to your question. Over. What is, kind of -- what is the limiting factor on the patients that you're receiving? James Ware; commanding officer aboard USNS Comfort speaks with Army Brig. ‘Cause from here, it just seems like more of a political symbol by the governors, given that the capacity is not being used, even a fraction of it, on board the ships? Q: That was a question for the Comfort specifically. A military officer next to the USNS Comfort Navy hospital ship located at Pier 90 to care for patients not related to Covic-19 on March 31, 2020 in New York City. So we -- again, we're working with local officials and FEMA, we have everything laying flat as far as communication and our ability to move patients from local hospitals to the ship. In addition, for our new staff coming aboard the ship since we left San Diego, they are in a period of what we call restriction of movement for 14 days, so they're coming up here to Los Angeles, to the local areas, actually, essentially being in self-quarantine or self-isolation, if you will, to ensure that it's -- had -- had they been exposed to somebody with COVID and they didn't know it, that would be time for the disease to declare itself. Commanding Officers of Medical Treatment Facility USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy Hold a Press Briefing via Teleconference April 2, 2020 Captain John R. Rotruck, Commanding Officer, … And then I've got a follow-up after that. For all channels, please just ensure that you mute your lines. You know, essentially, we're in a constant state of readiness to do whatever mission that our -- our higher officials ask of us. Q: I'm so sorry, you said you did mean that or you did not? Patrick Amersbach, commanding officer of the USNS Comfort Medical Treatment Facility, talked about the role the Navy hospital ship was playing in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort passes lower Manhattan on its way to docking in New York, Monday, March 30, 2020. USNS Comfort commanding officer on arrival in NYC: 'Excited to be here and excited to get started' Capt. Patrick Amersbach, Commanding Officer of the USNS Comfort, told Warrior in an interview. And I think the take-home message there is that we are able to actually bring patients aboard and also discharge them effectively to generate that patient throughput so that they can continue to effectively act as a relief valve to local hospitals. NHA TRANG, Vietnam (NNS) -- Capt. That is an interesting question, and I think it's something we would have to give some thought to. AMERSBACH: Captain Amersbach on the Comfort. Initially, they were supposed to help with hospital overflow of non-COVID patients. USNS Comfort … Captain Rotruck, he asked about disinformation. Just speaking specifically to the Los Angeles area, our process is that the local hospitals call in to the county's medical alert center, which has already been a pre-existing system by which local hospitals transfer patients between each other. Thank you again for this opportunity to speak with you. We arrived early to need to New York City and are grateful to serve the needs of our nation. By ERIN DURKIN. It's really driven by demand from the local hospitals based on their current capacity. Diebold, USNS Comfort’s mission commander, Capt. So, the issue for us in relocating would just be providing a safe disposition for all the patients that are currently on board the ship. I -- I'll go first on that. For the folks on the phone, good morning. We are accomplishing our mission and showing the power of Navy Medicine in support of the American people, and we will stay here until it is decided that our support is deemed no longer necessary. Q: And just back to the types of injuries, are you talking gunshot wounds or broken legs? NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- The U.S. Navy's hospital ship the USNS Comfort has arrived New York City to help in the war against the coronavirus pandemic. ROTRUCK: Captain Rotruck from the Mercy here. Can you say what is, kind of, the -- the process? If that changes in the future then we will adjust accordingly but right now, that is how we are operating. But if I were to conjecture how we would accomplish that mission, essentially, we would transition from a non-COVID-19 patient treatment facility to a COVID-19-only patient treatment facility. We just answer those calls as appropriate. Patrick Amersbach on precautions being taken to keep other patients and crew safe from COVID-19 exposure. Jim Ware, commanding officer of the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), speaks to embarked news media about the ship's mission to provide humanitarian assistance to Haiti after the Caribbean nation was struck by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010. ROTRUCK: No, I -- I do mean they're getting a COVID test and a result prior to being transferred. Flickr - The U.S. Army - Continuing Promise 2009 Humanitarian Mission - … Were they all tested or put into isolation for 14 days in advance? Read More: 'Legacy of USNS Comfort' by U.S. Usns comfort s mtf commanding officer relieved zoom commander military sealift command rear adm. Capt kathy becker 410 631 7461 kathy becker mil ah20 navy mil. Capt. CAPT. Captain Rotruck from the Mercy. And as -- if that demand signal ramps up, we'll certainly be ready to accommodate that. We wanted to know how he is making sure his crew can accomplish their health care mission and also stay safe from the virus. Diebold, USNS Comfort’s mission commander, Capt. Same here. Shannon cited a loss of confidence in Haltner’s ability to command as the reason for her relief pending … Q: And how could you -- could you actually take COVID patients, given that it's a ship? Your news. And then we have a very robust logistics system in which to get resupply while we are pierside. 3:00 p.m. Media will have the opportunity to conduct interviews on the pier with Capt. We currently have enough PPE equipment and source on board to take care of patients here in New York City for the -- well, for probably at least for the next couple of weeks, depending on how many patients we get aboard the ship. CAPT. We were also brought into New York City as quickly as possible so we were available and -- and -- and in place to accept COVID-19-free patients to take some of the pressure off local health systems before the wave hit or as quickly as we possibly can. And the other question is just about billing. If anything changes --. Kevin Buckley, commanding officer for the USNS Comfort, gestures as he speaks to the media as Capt. The Comfort is one of only two Navy hospital ships. They have local health officials. We heard from the Mercy captain about how patients are referred and kind of what that process is like. Share on Facebook Share on Twitter. It happened well outside of our fence line. The commanding officers of USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort briefed reporters at the Pentagon on their missions in support of the Defense Department's COVID-19 response. With respect to people just showing up for care, we've had a few phone calls here on the ship of people that believe they could access here directly, as opposed to being patients in a hospital and being transferred. Comfort ' s duties include providing emergency, on-site care for U.S. combatant forces deployed in war or other operations. So, we've got a total of 15 patients transferred so far. I’m very proud to be from Bowie and from Maryland. How would you accommodate COVID-19 patients? And once we accomplish that, we could leave in fairly short order in order to do so. Gen. Manuel Ortiz Jr. the commander and deputy commander of U.S. Army South during his recent visit. ROTRUCK: So Captain Rotruck here, speaking for the Mercy before Captain Amersbach answers on his coast. Sign up for the Get Up DC newsletter: Your forecast. The captain recalled the ship left quickly; they arrived in New York and had to work out the communications and patient transfer process; and then, their mission changed. ROTRUCK: So Captain Rotruck here. Navy hospital ship arrives in New York ReutersCrowds ignore social distancing rules to watch USNS Comfort New York Post 1,200 Dead in N.Y. and Cuomo… Dr. Brett Seidle has been selected as the executive director of Naval Sea Systems Command's (NAVSEA's) Naval Surface and Undersea Warfare Centers. Choose which Defense.gov products you want delivered to your inbox. So the central communications and referral is being ran through the Javits Center in -- in New York City. CAPT. I got family in Baltimore. Seidle will succeed Donald McCormack, who retires April 30. Catherine Spanbauer Analyst at United … The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort has been docked in New York City for more than two weeks. He has a message for those supporting him back here at home. Kevin Buckley, commanding officer, USNS Comfort Medical Treatment Facility and Capt. Video Report: Army Research Lab Scientist Tell Warrior About AI-Enabled Robot Tanks*****. Q: Hi, thank you for doing this. And then for both of you, I just want to clear up something that Secretary Esper said at the White House briefing yesterday. Comfort is on a four-month civic assistance and humanitarian mission as part of Continuing Promise 2009. Patrick Amersbach, commanding officer of the USNS Comfort, hold a … CAPTAIN JOHN R. ROTRUCK: Good morning, everyone. And secondly, with the -- for the Mercy captain, we've seen recently that both California and Washington State seem to be -- being successful in flattening the curve. Kevin Buckley, Commanding Officer of the Military Treatment Facility Capt. CAPT. The ship has 1,000 beds and … It treated 182 patients, the … John R. Rotruck, commanding officer of the USNS Mercy, and Navy Capt. We steamed to Los Angeles to be the relief valve for local hospitals so they would have the capability to combat COVID-19. 070622-N-7088A-022 CARIBBEAN SEA (June 22, 2007) - The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), anchored several miles off the coast of Belize. NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The U.S. Navy's hospital ship the USNS Comfort has arrived New York City to help in the war against the coronavirus pandemic. Commanding Officer: CAPT David Weiss (410)631-7461 . Just a quick follow-up for my colleague, Jeff Schogol. Kevin Buckley, commanding officer for the USNS Comfort, gestures as he speaks to the media as Capt. — USNS Comfort Capt. But this deployment came with challenges. The USNS Comfort had a similar mission in deploying to New York City. We -- we have not been directed to change our plan of the scope of care that we're going to provide. Q: Okay, so your first patients, you started taking on yesterday afternoon. USNS Comfort hosts New … He was asked specifically whether the hospital ships could accept -- could begin accepting COVID patients and he -- I think he caused a lot of confusion because he didn't -- he said that they would do what they're asked to do and -- and we've been hearing not -- nothing but the fact that they would only be non-COVID patients on the hospitals. New York Harbor Channel had the privilege of conducting an onboard phone interview with Captain Patrick Amersbach, the Commanding Officer of the USNS Comfort Military Treatment Facility moments after President Donald Trump spoke in Norfolk, VA for the send off ceremony. The process continues, but again, it is settling out and we are honestly looking forward to seeing a significant increase in patients being transferred to the Comfort today. Continuing Promise is a five-month humanitarian assistance mission to the Caribbean, Central and South America. CAPT. Amersbach's career in the military has taken him all over the world, most recently to New York City, where the Comfort is a large part of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. While we have never responded to a pandemic, this is the type of mission that we train for, as our ship is uniquely outfitted for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. CAPT. Q: It's Jennifer Griffin from Fox News. I know that they're referred -- the patients are referred to the ships from the hospitals, so can you talk a little bit about why is it only, you know, 15 patients for the Mercy and I think you said three for the Comfort? Comfort is on a four-month humanitarian deployment to Latin America and the Caribbean region to provide medical treatment to approximately 85,000 patients in a dozen countries. Do you want to continue? We are honored to answer the call in this time of need and are committed to protecting the health of our force and the health of our nation. CAPT. Q: Hi, this is Ellen Milhiser from Synopsis. ROTRUCK: I -- I do mean they are all getting COVID tested at the local hospitals and where they're coming and that test result is coming -- coming back negative, of course, before we approve a request for transfer. Just a few ground rules before we get started. Patrick Amersbach was born and raised in the DMV, and now he's playing a major role in the response to COVID … Do you have instant testing and are these patients going through that before they are on board the ships? “We feel that we are making an impact and helping out New York City,” Amersbach said. Capt. CAPTAIN Patrick K. Amersbach Commanding Officer USNS COMFORT (T-AH 20) CAPT Amersbach is a native of Bowie, Maryland. I could not be more proud of the sailors aboard Mercy and how they came together as a team so quickly. We go through the -- the Javits Center and all coordination for care beyond what would be provided from the ship would be coordinated through them. USNS Comfort Public Affairs Office MSC PAO 01-61 For more information, contact: Marge Holtz or Bridget Morris 202-685-5055 or 202-494-6524 September 28, 2001. And to echo Captain Rotruck, absolutely, we take our -- our orders and directions from higher authority and if our mission shifts we will -- we'll do what we can to meet that mission. STAFF: Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. WCBS 880's Steve Scott spoke with Capt. What entity is -- takes -- is -- is -- is kind of responsible for making sure that patients get to the Comfort? Q: Yeah, just as a follow up, are you going through the Defense Logistics Agency for resupply and husbanding, for -- for both of you, the Mercy and the Comfort, in terms of -- I'm just curious how you all are getting new equipment coming on board both ships. And can you say how disinformation and rumor is affecting your safety? “I'm overwhelmed by the amount of support. AMERSBACH: This is Captain Amersbach --. 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Since that was not part of our initial plan, we don't have those specialists aboard. “Playing sports, whether it was for the City of Bowie, the Boys and Girls Club or a pickup game at the local elementary school... we used to have football games over at Kenilworth Elementary school,” he recalled. David Murrin, Ship’s Master USNS Comfort. I have a follow-up. The USNS Comfort arrived in New York on Monday, bringing a … “The team really came together during this deployment and used all of our skills while working with our partners to the south. Idrees from Reuters. CAPT. Captain John R. Rotruck, Commanding Officer, Medical Treatment Facility USNS Mercy; Captain Patrick Amersbach, Commanding Officer, Medical Treatment Facility USNS Comfort, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Q: Okay. Patrick Amersbach was born and raised in the DMV, and now he's playing a major role in the response to COVID-19. CAPT. Video Report: Army Research Lab Scientist Tell Warrior About AI-Enabled Robot Tanks*****. On board the Comfort, they have the capacity to treat the worst – and what they're seeing is pretty bad. And then my question is -- is for Captain Amersbach. Patrick Amersbach gave WUSA9 his Bowie High School graduation photo. The USNS Comfort, with 1,000 patient beds and 12 operating rooms, was sent to New York City to help relieve pressure on the city’s overwhelmed hospitals. Captain Amersbach, who is responsible for referring patients to the Comfort? He provided WUSA9 with a picture, almost 40 years old, of his graduation photo from the Bowie High School Class of 1982. We would, again, if we were directed to, potentially be able to take COVID-19 patients if we reconfigured the availability of beds on the ship, based on the separation of COVID and non-COVID patients. Amersback's roots in the DMV are deep. AMERSBACH: -- on the Comfort -- sorry, John, didn't mean to step on you there. By ERIN DURKIN. USNS Comfort’s MTF Commanding Officer Relieved. And, again, that would be at the direction of FEMA, directed to the Department of Defense, for us to do that. In terms of the process to ensure that patients who come to us are not infected with COVID, we are not performing that test here, the -- the local referring hospital is actually screening and testing the patients before they are transferred. STAFF: I'm sorry, so was that a question for the Mercy or for the Comfort? USNS Comfort Mission to Latin America 2018. After they came aboard, we've been doing all the individual measures that you're familiar with – hand washings, frequent use of hand sanitizers placed widely throughout the ship, the other CDC recommendations that you don't touch your face, that you exercise social distancing to the maximum extent possible and that you do frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces. 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