Photos show crowds of New Yorkers breaking social distancing rules and gawking at the USNS Comfort docked in Manhattan

insider@insider.com (Connor Perrett)
An NYPD officer is pictured as the USNS Comfort pulled into a berth in Manhattan during the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 30, 2020.

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

  • Crowds of people gathered in New York City to watch the USNS Comfort arrive, despite a state order requiring social distancing.
  • The ship will be used as additional hospital space for non-coronavirus patients as New York hospitals become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. 
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's communications team asked the NYPD to help disperse the crowd after a journalist tweeted about it.
  • The mayor on Sunday warned those found in violation of social distancing could face a fine of up to $500.
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People in New York flocked to watch the USNS Comfort dock on Monday morning as it arrived to help the state as existing hospitals become overwhelmed by the number of patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. 

The ship, which houses 1,000 hospital beds, 12 operating rooms, 80 intensive care units, a pharmacy, and a medical laboratory, docked at Pier 90, a cruise terminal on Manhattan's west side. The USNS Comfort will not take on COVID-19 patients, but instead will serve as additional hospital space for people requiring medical attention not related to the novel coronavirus.

The state of New York has been hardest hit by the novel coronavirus in the United States. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, more than 66,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the state. At least 790 have died due to the disease.

Onlookers gathered along the pier to watch the ship come into the port. Photos show them pointing their phones and snapping photos and videos of the ship as it sailed into Manhattan. One person waived a US flag as the ship sailed past.

The USNS Comfort, a U.S. Navy hospital ship, arrives at New York Harbor during the coronavirus pandemic on March 30, 2020 in New York City.

Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

In one photo, more than two dozen people can be seen in close proximity to one another watching the US Navy ship arrive in New York City. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended the cancelation of all gatherings larger than 10 people.

Spectators watch as the USNS Comfort, a U.S. Navy hospital ship, arrives at New York Harbor during the coronavirus pandemic on March 30, 2020 in New York City.

Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Others could be seen in smaller groups, though they were also not following the CDC social distancing guidelines, which recommend people stay more than six feet apart.

People watch as the USNS Comfort arrives in New York City on March 30, 2020 in New York City.

Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

According to The New York Post, the crowds were eventually ordered to disperse by about a dozen NYPD officers after the communications team for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio directed them to after a journalist tweeted about the crowd.

"The pictures made me realize it was happening and I reported it to detail who got involved," City Hall spokesperson Freddi Goldstein told The New York Post.

"This is a new reality for all of us and we're all adjusting. The mayor and the police commissioner are in regular contact to make sure our officers understand this new ask of them, as well," she said.

On Sunday, de Blasio said New York City residents found breaking social distancing requirements would be subject to a fine of up to $500, according to Politico.

On Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the continuation of his "PAUSE" order, which orders the state's non-essential workforce to work from home until at least April 15. While the order prohibits crowds of any size and requires six feet of distance between people, it does not prohibit New Yorkers from leaving their homes. Cuomo had last week said social distancing measures could last as much as nine months

President Trump over the weekend said he had been considering an "enforceable quarantine" for New York and neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut, though he eventually decided against the plan after speaking with state leaders. The CDC instead issued a travel warning for the three states.

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