A tearful crew member onboard the USNS Comfort has posted an emotional video diary update online, telling New Yorkers ‘you don’t have to be afraid anymore.’
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Alexandria Agudelo shared the video from the US Navy hospital ship this week, where she is working on the frontline of the coronavirus outbreak in the vessel’s emergency department.
The military medic has been drafted in to New York City on the Comfort to help the coronavirus epicenter in its fight against the deadly outbreak – a deployment she said follows in the footsteps of her uncle who was deployed on the ship to help the city in its last crisis of 9/11.
The ship began taking coronavirus patients this week following a backlash after it lay mostly empty due to rules that it could only take non-coronavirus patients in the city where the death toll has now surged to 4,778.
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Alexandria Agudelo shared the video from the US Navy hospital ship this week, where she is working on the frontline of the coronavirus outbreak in the vessel’s emergency department
The military hero choked back tears as she described how it had been a ‘wild ride’ on board the ship and reassured New Yorkers that ‘we’re here for you’.
‘Hey everyone. My name is Alexandria Agudelo, I’m a Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class,’ she said into the camera.
‘I’m stationed here on the USNS Comfort – I’m ROS crew which means I’m actually stationed on the ship.’
Agudelo said she had been onboard the vessel for ‘about eight months’ – long before the coronavirus outbreak reached US soil and the ship was deployed in the nation’s fight against it.
‘It’s been a wild ride,’ she said, fighting back tears.
‘I work in the ER – I’m the only ROS crew member in the ER,’ she said.
The army medic went on to describe how ‘special’ the mission is to her, given that her uncle was deployed on the same ship to help New York after 9/11.
‘This mission has been really special to me,’ she said.
The USNS Comfort was drafted in to Manhattan, New York City, to help the coronavirus epicenter in its fight against the deadly outbreak
One of the surgery rooms of The USNS Comfort hospital ship. It began taking coronavirus patients this week following a backlash after it lay mostly empty due to rules that it could only take non-coronavirus patients in the city where the death toll has now surged to 4,778
‘My uncle actually responded to 9/11 with the Comfort. He was a firefighter in the army at the time and having this opportunity to be here and follow in the footsteps of someone that is the motivation for me joining the military… it’s been pretty awesome.’
The coronavirus has now killed more than double the number of New Yorkers than the September 11 terrorist attacks, when 2,753 people in the city and 2,977 overall were killed.
‘This mission has been very humbling for me and it’s pretty amazing for me to be able to be here and responding to Americans after spending so much time in South America,’ she said.
Agudelo said she wanted people to ‘finally know who we are.’
In the emotional video Agudelo said it was a ‘special’ mission to her, as she was following in the footsteps of her uncle who was deployed on the ship to help the city in its last crisis of 9/11
‘We’re here for you and you don’t have to be afraid anymore,’ she said.
As of Thursday, there were about 80 patients onboard the ship, after the president responded to the pleas from New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo to allow the converted hospital ship to take coronavirus patients.
Agudelo said in an interview with Fox San Antonio Thursday that the patients are ‘really sick’.
‘We are literally a floating hospital,’ she said.
‘These are the people who are actually really sick and they are the ones who really need our help.’
She also told of her concerns that she could infect her children and her mom who has cancer.
‘I think we have a double risk of exposing our children and my mom has cancer right now,’ Agudelo said.
On Monday, it emerged that a crew member on board the hospital ship had tested positive for coronavirus.
The crew member is in isolation and has not made contact with any patients onboard.
Any other crew members who made contact with the infected person are also in isolation, even though they all tested negative.
A Navy statement obtained by ABC News read: ‘There is no impact to Comfort’s mission, and this will not affect the ability for Comfort to receive patients.
‘The ship is following protocols and taking every precaution to ensure the health and safety of all crew members and patients on board.’
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump approved Cuomo’s request to treat coronavirus patients on board the USNS Comfort.
The USNS Comfort passes the Statue of Liberty as it enters New York Harbor on March 30
President Trump responded to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s pleas for the ship to take coronavirus patients as hospitals buckle under the demand
Cuomo had told reporters on Monday that he was ‘going to call the president this afternoon and ask him to shift the USNS Comfort from non-COVID to COVID’.
Hours after Cuomo’s interview, Trump confirmed that he spoke with the governor and agreed to use the ship, originally intended to take in non-COVID patients from overwhelmed hospitals, for coronavirus patients.
‘We hadn’t had that in mind at all, but we’re going to let him do it,’ Trump said Monday.
‘It’s set for Covid,’ the president said, adding that the ship has been approved to treat New Jersey patients as well.
Despite Trump’s announcement Monday, Joint Staff Surgeon Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs, the top medical doctor for the military, said the ship had already been treating coronavirus patients.
Medical response team training aboard the Comfort on March 29, as it prepared to be deployed to New York
Medical training on the ship in March. It emerged this week that a crew member on the ship has now tested positive for coronavirus
He stated: ‘Our commitment has been that if a patient comes to us, we would take care of them.’
‘Have we had patients who ultimately were determined to have coronavirus on the hospital ships? Yes. And we’re taking care of them, just like we’re taking care of all the other patients going forward,’ Friedrichs added.
The ship has repeatedly come under fire for seeing such small numbers of patients while hospitals across the state buckle under the toll of the pandemic.
The 1,000-bed ship has been docked in Manhattan for almost two weeks, after it arrived from Norfolk, Virginia, on March 30.
Officials said it can take 500 patients to ensure staff can practice social distancing.
So far it has taken 80 patients, with reports that its 1,200-strong crew are largely idle.
New York is the coronavirus epicenter of the world with more infections than any other country outside the US – and a third of global cases are now in America – as the state tops 159,000 cases
New York state is now the coronavirus epicenter of the world with more infections than any other country outside of the United States.
The number of confirmed cases in New York state increased to 159,937 on Thursday after the number of infections went up by 10,000 in 24 hours.
In comparison, Spain has now recorded just over 152,000 cases and Italy’s infections increased to more than 142,000.
China, which is where the coronavirus first broke out late last year, currently has nearly 83,000 infections.
The United States has 469,450 cases and accounts for a third of the world’s total infections.
In terms of fatalities, Italy’s death toll is the highest across with the globe with more than 18,000 cases. The US follows with 16,715 and then Spain with 15,300.
New York state’s death toll as of Thursday was just over 7,000.
In New York City, the number of cases surged to 87,725 Thursday and the death toll reached 4,778, as another 518 New Yorkers were killed by the virus.
Mayor Bill de Blasio warns New Yorkers lockdown could last throughout May as he says ‘now is the time to double down, not relax’ on coronavirus social distancing measures
Mayor Bill de Blasio warned on Thursday that the current state of lockdown could last beyond April and into May as he said now was the time to increase social distancing efforts and not relax them in light of slowing coronavirus hospitalization rates.
The mayor spoke at a press conference where he said the data proved New York City was bending its curve by staying indoors and practicing social distancing.
He commended the city’s residents for their ‘noble’ efforts but said they had to continue in order to avoid a resurgence of the virus.
The decision on how long social distancing laws last in New York City is not de Blasio’s – the governor, Andrew Cuomo, is the only person with the authority to implement them.
De Blasio however said on Thursday he believes we are in for ‘very hard April’ and a ‘hard May’.
‘I don’t think it happens in April. If we really work hard we have a chance of in May or June,’ he said.
The ‘promised land’, he said, was reduced restrictions but that in order for that to happen, more tests need to become available.
‘We’re going to need more testing. If we could get widespread testing it would start to change the entire strategy and allow us to do so much more.
‘It’s not clear how and when that happens.’
De Blasio warned on Thursday that the current state of lockdown could last longer than just April and said it may go into May
Workers in full Hazmat suits bury rows of coffins in Hart Island mass grave as NYC officials confirm coronavirus victims WILL be buried there if their bodies aren’t claimed within two weeks.
A dozen contracted laborers were seen digging and burying the caskets – some of which had names carved on them – on Thursday.
The city has used Hart Island to bury New Yorkers with no known next of kin or whose family are unable to arrange a funeral since the 19th century.
Typically, about 25 bodies are buried there once a week by low-paid Rikers Island jail inmates. That number began increasing last month as the new coronavirus spread rapidly and New York became the epicenter of the pandemic.
They are now burying about two dozen bodies a day, five days a week, DailyMail.com has been told.
Until now, officials have remained tight-lipped on whether coronavirus victims were being buried on Hart Island.
Those dressed in hazmat suits had to use a ladder to get down into the mass grave on Thursday as the new caskets were buried. They were watched by a corrections officer (far right)
On Thursday, officials said they had no choice but to bury COVID-19 patients at the city’s cemetery as it deals with the mounting coronavirus death toll and dwindling morgue space.
Under a new policy, the medical examiner’s office will keep bodies in storage for just 14 days before they’re buried in the city’s potter’s field on Hart Island.
City officials haven’t explained whether the increase in burials at Hart Island is due to pressure on mortuaries to dispose of bodies more quickly.
Prisoners from Rikers Island are usually brought in to dig graves on Hart Island but the Department of Corrections has since hired contracted laborers to carry out the work due to the outbreak.
About a dozen workers were seen digging and burying the caskets – some of which had names carved into them – on Thursday as at least one refrigerated truck was brought onto the island
‘For social distancing and safety reasons, city-sentenced people in custody are not assisting in burials for the duration of the pandemic,’ DOC Press Secretary Jason Kersten told DailyMail.com. ‘Contracted laborers are performing this important work under DOC supervision.
‘Burial operations at the city cemetery remain uninterrupted and they continue to be supervised by DOC, which has been performing this solemn duty on Hart Island for over 150 years and will continue to do so until the jurisdiction of Hart Island moves to Parks in 2021.’
For burial on the island, the dead are wrapped in body bags and placed inside pine caskets. The deceased’s name is scrawled in large letters on each casket, which helps if any body needs to be exhumed later. The caskets are buried in long narrow trenches excavated by digging machines.
Earlier on Thursday, the department referred questions about causes of death to the city’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Aja Worthy-Davis, an OCME spokeswoman, said it would take time to collate individual causes of death from the office’s records, but that it was probable some of the recent burials include those felled by the coronavirus.
The island may also be used as a site for temporary interments should deaths surge past the city’s morgue capacity – a point that has not yet been reached, according to the DOC and OCME.
‘We’re all hoping it’s not coming to this,’ Kersten said. ‘At the same time, we’re prepared if it does.’
OCME can store about 800 to 900 bodies in its buildings and also has room to store about 4,000 bodies in some 40 refrigerated trucks it can dispatch around the city to hospitals that typically have only small morgues.