By now, the USNS Comfort has left New York Harbor, where it was deployed to provide additional hospital beds: originally for non-COVID-19 patients from New York’s hospitals.
The fact that its full capacity turned out not to be needed is nothing but good news.
And it does not detract from the amazing feat of Donjon Marine in preparing the berth for the ship. “The dredging was done faster than anyone knew it could be done,” said New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio prior to the March 30 docking. While the Comfort has moved on, the harbor improvements remain and will continue to benefit the city.
A similar sense of urgency and efficiency is evident in the impressive work the Corps of Engineers has done in quickly setting up temporary field hospital facilities around the country, both on its own and in collaboration with state and local authorities. It has conducted more than 1,100 site assessments and converted 32 existing structures to alternate care facilities, for a total bed capacity of 15,800. A further 52 facilities are Corps-designed but state-executed.
Alternate care facilities in place include the Javits Center in New York City (about 2,100 bed spaces), which started as a non-COVID facility but has pivoted to take COVID patients; the TCF Center in Detroit, Mich. (970 bed spaces); McCormick Place in Chicago (3,000 bed spaces); Miami Beach Convention Center (450 bed spaces and built in 12 days); and the Colorado Convention Center (1,243 projected bed spaces). Again, the fact that not all of this capacity turned out to be needed is good news. We’ll leave the conversation about disease models and projections to others.
We shouldn’t be too surprised at these achievements. Rapid deployment of infrastructure is what the Corps has been doing for years overseas, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. All this recent activity shows the Corps at its best, when regulatory obstacles are suspended, it is given adequate resources and moved by a sense of urgency.