- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday said President Trump was authorizing the deployment of a hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, to New York harbor to try to expand capacity as the state grapples with the coronavirus outbreak.

“It has about 1,000 rooms on it. It has operating rooms, and the president is going to dispatch the Comfort to us,” Mr. Cuomo said at a news conference in Albany.

“It’s an extraordinary step, obviously. … It’s literally a floating hospital, which will add capacity and the president said that he would dispatch that immediately,” he said.

Mr. Cuomo said he and Mr. Trump agreed that they’re fighting the same war.

“And we’re in the same trench, and I have your back, you have my back, and we’re going to do everything we can for the people of the state of New York,” he said. “His actions demonstrate that he is doing that.”

Mr. Cuomo also said the state was mandating that nonessential businesses have no more than 50% of their employees working outside their homes, in an effort to limit the density of gatherings.

He said the mandate would exempt essential services like groceries, pharmacies, and health care.

“Society has to function,” he said. “I understand that this is a burden to businesses. I get it. I understand the impact on the economy. But in truth, we’re past that point as a nation. There is going to be an impact on the economy.”

“We’re going to have to deal with that crisis, but let’s deal with one crisis at a time,” he said. “The crisis at hand is a public health crisis. Once we get past that, then we’ll deal with the economic crisis.”

New York has been the hardest-hit state in the ongoing outbreak, with at least 2,382 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state as of Wednesday.

Mr. Cuomo also said that Pennsylvania was joining a multi-state coalition with New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

The leaders of those states announced this week that casinos, theaters, gyms, bars and restaurants would be closed, though food would still be available for takeout from the shuttered restaurants.

“None of these measures work unless you have a large enough geographic basis,” he said.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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