Fort Carson will deploy 50 medical troops to San Antonio to help battle coronavirus, U.S. Northern Command announced Monday.
The soldiers will embed in civilian medical facilities to help doctors and nurses combat a spike that included 548 new cases in the San Antonio area reported Monday by Texas health officials.
It’s the second coronavirus deployment from the 627th Hospital Center at the post, which sent soldiers to Seattle in April to establish a field hospital to ease pressure on civilian providers.
“The medical personnel include emergency room and critical care nurses, respiratory specialists and support personnel,” stated Northern Command, a Peterson Air Force Base headquarters that has led military efforts to assist local governments amid the pandemic.
The new deployment shows the shift federal authorities have made in how they use the military to help fight the virus. In April, Northern Command sent Navy hospital ships to New York and Los Angeles as well as the field hospital to Seattle to care for cases not involving coronavirus in an effort to ease pressure on medical systems. That plan fell short, because the need for trauma care and other services offered by the military dropped sharply.
Fort Carson troops built a full field hospital at a Seattle football stadium, but closed it within days because of a clear lack of demand.
This time, the troops will head directly to medical centers fighting the virus. The skills of the deployed troops will help ease staffing demands at the hospitals, helping them deal with a spike in admissions.
The Fort Carson troops will fall under U.S. Army North in San Antonio, the ground forces element of Northern Command. But they will actually be reporting to the Fenderal Emergency Management Agency, which is assisting Texas health officials.
Texas has seen a sharp spike in coronavirus cases in recent weeks after restrictions that closed businesses and kept residents home were lifted. The state started easing restrictions on residents in April as coronavirus cases dropped. But that trend reversed in June with the number of cases in Texas going from nearly 65,000 June 1 to 201,000 Monday, the state’s health department announced.
Texas authorities on Monday reported 5,318 additional coronavirus cases had been diagnosed.
The move by Northern Command could be the beginning of a second surge of Pentagon assistance to help states. The command, which regularly assists states during summertime wildfires and hurricanes, can call on medical troops from all branches for coronavirus duty, while providing other military resources such as transport aircraft, helicopters and Army trucks to help meet logistics needs.