Coronavirus pandemic: Jacksonville native serves aboard USNS Comfort in NYC

NEW YORK CITY — There’s more than 30 Jacksonville-based military members, both reservists and active duty, who are helping with the United States’ response to the coronavirus outbreak in New York.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Lynn Houston answered the call for duty to help on board the U.S. Navy hospital ship Comfort in New York.

The hospital ship is in New York City to relieve pressure on the city’s hospitals due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Houston is aboard the ship serving as a preoperative nurse in the operating room.

“We are accepting both non-COVID and COVID patients to the ship and again providing care to patients that might not have that access to medical care in New York City,” Houston said.

Houston, who usually works as a nurse manager for Mayo Clinic, answered the call for those in the Navy Reserves to help with this mission.

“The opportunity to be a part of this mission, and there are many other people here from Jacksonville, supporting the people of New York City in any way that we can, it’s really an honor,” she said.

Houston has been on the ship since it first set sail for NYC from Norfolk, Virginia, on March 25.

She said this this is a unique mission. It’s the first time the medical community has been on the front line.

“We’re usually out behind the people out on the front lines. We’re going to get patients that are on the battlefields, instead now we are at the tip of the sphere,” Houston said.

She said since the ship first docked, the numbers of patients continue to rise and everyone aboard the Comfort is working tirelessly to keep up with the demand.

Although Houston said they are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, “The hospitals are still full but their discharge rate is higher than their admission rate so the front-line staff are feeling some relief."

She said she hopes Northeast Florida never sees a surge like the one in NYC. She’s asking everyone locally to continue following local and state guidelines because she said they are working.