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Military & Veterans' Issues

Texas Will Soon See More Help From The Military In Its Fight Against COVID-19

U.S Army critical care nurses 1st Lt. Charles Gilcrist and 1st Lt. Lauryn Hudgins from Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force - 627 work to provide medical care to a COVID-19 patient alongside Baptist Hospital medical staff in San Antonio, July 10, 2020.
Luis A. Deya | U.S. Army
U.S Army critical care nurses 1st Lt. Charles Gilcrist and 1st Lt. Lauryn Hudgins from Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force - 627 work to provide medical care to a COVID-19 patient alongside Baptist Hospital medical staff in San Antonio, July 10, 2020.

As Bexar County’s coronavirus caseload continues its rapid ascent, Army medical and support personnel are arriving in San Antonio to assist five local hospitals.

Nearly 50 Army personnel arrived last week from the 627th Hospital Center at Fort Carson, Colorado. The group — mostly made up of nurses and respiratory specialists — embedded with Baptist Health Center, Christus Santa Rosa Medical Center, Christus Westover Hills Medical Center, Methodist Metropolitan and University Hospital.

The rest of their 85-person cohort, dubbed Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force 627, is expected to arrive Monday.

Other parts of the state will soon receive assistance from Army medical personnel, but officials are still assessing the timelines and potential destinations of additional teams.

In a statement, U.S. Army North indicated that five more 85-person UAMTFs were on the way, along with medical teams from the U.S. Navy.

“As part of the ongoing whole-of-nation response to COVID-19, U.S. Northern Command has assigned approximately 580 Department of Defense medical personnel in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the State of Texas. 
An additional five, 85-person UAMTFs, along with a 44-person Acute Care Team and four, seven-person Rapid Rural Response Teams from the U.S. Navy, were also activated at the behest of Texas to support statewide efforts.”

The second UAMTF will head to Houston, according to Col. Martin O’Donnell of U.S. Army North Public Affairs. 

O’Donnell added that federal assessment teams had been sent to Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, McAllen and Laredo to determine the areas of greatest need — and how best to augment the trauma and emergency healthcare systems in each region.

“Texas is grateful to the federal government as well as the President and Vice President for working swiftly to provide additional resources to the state as we work to mitigate COVID-19 and care for our fellow Texans,” Governor Greg Abbott said Friday. “We will continue to work with our local and federal partners to ensure all resources and needs are met throughout the state.”

On Friday, federal officials denied a state request that would have allowed Joint Base San Antonio–Fort Sam Houston’s Brooke Army Medical Center to expand its care of COVID-19 patients beyond military personnel, dependents and retirees. Pentagon policy bars the facility from doing more. 

Carson Frame can be reached at Carson@TPR.org and on Twitter at @carson_frame.

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