The USNS Comfort, a massive, floating hospital made by the US Navy, docked in New York City Tuesday morning, drawing massive crowds of onlookers. Frustratingly, these crowds were defying the very social distancing orders put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The onlookers made for a strange sight, as crowds on the streets of New York City are all but unheard of during this pandemic.
While the USNS Comfort isn’t designed to treat COVID-19 patients, it will significantly alleviate the pressure on overburdened New York hospitals. NYC has become the new epicenter of the novel coronavirus, sporting the highest number of cases of any US city.
The Comfort will be able to take on non-COVID cases and tend to the sick so that NYC hospitals can focus on the pandemic.
The NYPD has a presence at the pier where the Comfort is docked, according to a spokesperson for the department, and will continue to disperse any crowds that develop. Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed that people could be fined as much as $500 for failing to observe proper social distancing guidelines.
Many reporters tweeted images of the gathering crowds, condemning the activities as counterproductive. The crowds, all angling for photos of the new hospital ship, could be evidence of the growing frustrated with social distancing and the toll the measures are taking on people.
Humans are inherently highly social, and most people want to spend time around others. However, with the current social distancing guidelines in place in much of the US, people are not allowed to congregate in groups and all non-essential businesses are closed.
Many people are eager for any opportunity to spend time around others, even if this means failing to observe proper social distancing guidelines.
As the social distancing guidelines bear on and the number of daily confirmed cases and deaths steadily climbs, many people are eagerly anticipating a return to normal. However, the White House recently announced that it was extending social distancing guidelines through the rest of April. According to some models, the guidelines should likely stay in place through some of May as well.
At this stage, it is difficult to say how long social distancing will be a required response to the pandemic. As the COVID-19 causing coronavirus is novel, there is no cure and no vaccine for the illness.
Until such medications are created, the disease will likely continue to spread, and extreme measures like social distancing will remain vital.