Answering the Call
When the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort arrived at New York City Harbor’s Pier 90 on March 30th, hundreds of people momentarily forgot about social distancing and stood shoulder-to-shoulder along to witness its arrival. The Comfort - a beacon of hope for a beleaguered city – arrived in port to give surge capacity to New York City’s overwhelmed hospital system as it reeled under pressure from the global Coronavirus pandemic.
Photo by U.S. Navy.
But one area of military vessels that people never give a lot of thought to, if any, is the all-important laundry room. Have you, at any time, ever taken a moment to consider how the ship’s crew launder bed linens, and PPE equipment such as scrubs, facemasks, etc?
Probably not, but there’s a group of dedicated workers doing just that every day in East Berlin, Connecticut.
Driving the beating heart of the Comfort’s laundry room are four 150lb and two 60lb washer-extractors, partnered with five 110lb and two 75lb tumbler dryers manufactured by the EDRO Corporation.
“All of EDRO’s employees are extremely proud and honored to be associated with the nation’s efforts to help those with critical needs at this time,” said EDRO’s Managing Director Scott Kirejczyk.
“As a tier-one laundry equipment supplier to the United States Defense Department, several of our ‘Battleship Quality’ washer-extractors are currently onboard the USNS Comfort assisting the staff in maintaining a hygienically clean environment.
“EDRO has been proudly supporting our military forces for three generations and as a family owned business, our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those families affected by this tragic health crisis,” stated Mr. Kirejczyk.
The Comfort is a converted supertanker used by the US Navy as a floating medical facility to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. It can sustain up to 2,000 people - crew and patients. Before steaming into New York, some of its prior postings had taken it to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and to New York City in 2001 to treat people injured in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. At its core are 12 operating rooms and 1,000 beds to support the numerous levels of care required. It is also home to a dental clinic, four X-ray machines, a CT scanner, two oxygen-producing plants, an optometry lab, and coolers to hold 5,000 units of blood. Other onboard services include a satellite lab, a central area for sterile casualty receiving, a medical supply depot, a well-stocked pharmacy, and a morgue.
During March, New York City rapidly emerged as the Coronavirus epicenter of the USA, and as a result, its medical centers became stretched to the limit and in dire need of more beds. The Comfort, emblazoned with red crosses on its white hull, joined tens of thousands of doctors, nurses, and medical professionals in New York battling to save American lives.
The original mission was the handling of trauma cases and other emergencies, thus allowing overburdened New York City hospitals to devote more resources to Coronavirus patients. However, after only 20 patients boarded the vessel on its first day of operation, that mission strategy changed on April 7th when President Trump signed an order allowing the Comfort to be converted into a 500-bed facility for coronavirus patients. The order came about after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo requested him to do so based on models that projected a worst-case scenario in which 110,000 to 136,000 hospital beds would be needed at the peak of the outbreak.
But as stay-at-home orders and mass social-distancing practices began to blunt the virus, the numbers of intensive care patients never reached the anticipated high-point capacity rendering the Comfort underutilized.
Following a White House meeting on Tuesday, April 21st, between the President and Governor Cuomo, it was announced that New York no longer needed the USNS Comfort. The final patient left the ship on Sunday, April 26th. It is unknown if the patient was to be transferred to another hospital or discharged from treatment altogether.
The Comfort is expected to hoist anchor on Thursday (April 30th) and head back to U.S. Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia where it’s expected to undergo maintenance, restock and prepare for deployment on possibly another Coronavirus mission.
Governor Cuomo stated in a coronavirus briefing last week that “having the ship in New York has been worthwhile. I believe [the] Comfort not only brought comfort but also saved lives.”
The EDRO Corporation is currently developing its latest range of washer-extractors for the US Navy equipped with its proprietary DynOzone Disinfecting & Sanitizing Laundry System as standard equipment. This system offers improved germicidal and bacterial cleaning properties to improve sterilization and disinfection of linens.
“Ozone has been considered one of nature’s most efficient virus killers for more than a century,” said Mr. Kirejczyk. “Our DynOzone Disinfecting & Sanitizing Laundry System utilizes UV radiation to create germicidal and oxidizing ozone. When this is added to cold water, they merge to become a powerful mixture which is then injected into the washtub to deactivate and destroy the harmful microorganisms that live in clothing and fabrics. A bonus of this system is that because of its cleaning properties, every machine is automatically sanitized during use.”
The USNS Comfort is one of two Mercy-class hospital ships operated by the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command. The Comfort’s sister hospital ship, the USNS Mercy, is also equipped with four 150lb and two 60lb washer-extractors partnered with five 110lb and two 75lb tumbler dryers from EDRO. The Mercy has been deployed in the port of Los Angeles since March after sailing in from its base in San Diego to help lift the burden from local medical treatment facilities that need to focus their resources on patients affected by the global pandemic.