Military medical and support teams have begun deploying to sunbelt states hit hard by the resurgence of COVID-19, in an effort to relieve overburdened local hospital personnel as they did in New York and New Jersey in the early stages of the pandemic.
At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the states, about 740 military personnel from the Army, Navy and Air Force have been sent to Texas and California in recent days to help contain the spread of the virus, U.S. Army North said in a release Monday.
"We are committed to assisting those in need as part of the ongoing whole-of-America response" to COVID-19, Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, commander of U.S. Army North, said in a statement.
For some on the medical teams, it is their second time on a backup mission to civilian hospitals.
"It's an honor to be in San Antonio, Texas, providing care to patients alongside local hospital staff," said Army Capt. Sarah Kopaciewicz, a critical care nurse.
"I was doing similar work, treating COVID-19-positive patients, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state before being employed here" on an embed to the Christus Westover Hills Medical Center in San Antonio, she added, according to the U.S. Army North release.
About 580 medical and support personnel from the Army and Navy are deploying to Texas, while another 160 from the Air Force are being sent to California, said U.S. Army North, which is overseeing the operation.
The emergency has become more acute in Texas, which reported 5,655 new cases Monday.
Texas has recorded a total of 264,000 positive novel coronavirus cases and 3,235 deaths since the pandemic began. In addition, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Monday requested permission from the state to order a two-week, stay-at-home shutdown.
California reported 8,460 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing its total to more than 320,000, resulting in 7,017 deaths.
In a statement, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, "Texas is grateful to the U.S. Department of Defense for providing these additional resources to Houston and San Antonio as we work to slow the spread of COVID-19 and care for our fellow Texans".
The first of the 580 military personnel sent to Texas arrived July 6 and included an 85-member enhanced Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force (UAMTF) from the 627th Hospital Center at Fort Carson, Colorado, U.S. Army North said.
"Our soldiers train daily to maintain clinical skills so we can save and sustain lives wherever and whenever the nation calls," said Lt. Col. Jason Hughes, UAMTF-627 commander.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.