On Monday, Mr. Trump agreed that the Comfort would accommodate people who tested positive for the virus.
A spokeswoman for the Navy said the discovery of an infected crew member would not affect the comfort mission in New York. “It does not affect the ability of comfort to accommodate patients at all,” said Elizabeth Baker, the spokeswoman.
There were 44 patients on Tuesday morning, which meant that most of the Comfort’s beds were still unused.
The infected crew member, who was not publicly identified, was not a medical worker and had no contact with patients, Ms. Baker said. She said she didn̵
All crew members had been tested negative for the virus prior to leaving Comfort port in Norfolk, Virginia and have not left the ship since they arrived in New York.
With its dazzling white hull adorned with red crosses, the Comfort appeared as a beacon of hope when it entered New York Harbor last week. But since then, it has been a strong symbol of efforts to fight a new contagion that continues to confuse medical science.
The ship arrived with a list of patient restrictions, some hospital officials complained that they were so stressful that only healthy people were admitted on board. When only a handful of patients could be brought on the ship, the Department of Defense relaxed these restrictions.
The goal was to prevent the virus from coming on board. In the end, however, it was proof of the harmfulness of the virus.
Five patients who were originally transferred to the Comfort after a negative virus test eventually also developed symptoms. Additional tests confirmed that they had the disease.
Now patients who suffer the most from Covid-19 are being brought on the ship along with other patients in need of help, while the less affected remain at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, another department-operated overflow site of the Defense in Manhattan. All patients must give their consent before being taken to the facilities operated by the Department of Defense.
After reconfiguring to accommodate Covid patients, the ship will have 500 beds and another 100 ventilated beds in the intensive care unit, said Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commanding the second U.S. fleet, during a briefing with reporters on Tuesday.
The Javits Center also has 42 ventilators and expects another 48 to go online in the coming days, said Maj. Gen. William A. Hall, who oversees operations there.
In order to reduce the dangers on board the Comfort, the ship was divided into two zones, the medical zone being completely isolated from other areas of the ship. Medical staff who were limited to comfort are now being transported by bus to and from a local hotel in the city every day to reduce the number of crew members in the ship’s public areas.
“Getting more patients in as soon as possible is critical to helping the city of New York face this pandemic crisis,” said Vice-Adm. Andrew Lewis, the commander of the second U.S. fleet, made a statement. “We have listened to the feedback from health professionals and the community and believe that this is the best way to help our fellow Americans.”
The Department of Defense announced on Tuesday that it would send additional reinforcements to New York City to support frontline medical workers. More than 300 military doctors have been sent to the city’s 11 public hospitals, and additional medical overflow centers are being established in neighboring countries, said department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.