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DOD Personnel Must Do More to Win Fight Against COVID-19, Special Advisor Says


By Jim Garamone
Defense.Gov, DoD News

While the personnel of the Defense Department have already done incredible work to combat the coronavirus, they must do more, said Max Rose, a special advisor on COVID-19 to the defense secretary.

Rose and Air Force Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Paul Friedrichs, the Joint Staff surgeon, spoke during a briefing at the Pentagon today. He took up his job last week when Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III assumed office.

Two men stand behind lecterns and speak to a group of people.
COVID-19 Briefing
Max Rose, COVID-19 senior advisor to the defense secretary, and Air Force Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Paul Friedrichs brief the news media on progress combating COVID-19.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 210128-D-BN624-0167

"The secretary has made this absolutely clear: We have to move further. We have to move faster. We have to be as bold as possible, all the while remembering that it is our utmost [mission] to protect and defend the United States at home, as well as abroad," Rose said during the briefing.

Rose, who served as an Army infantryman in Afghanistan and was wounded in action there, said Austin sent a clear message to all in DOD when his first act in office was to convene a meeting on COVID-19. This firmly established that combatting the pandemic is his number one priority. 

DOD leaders are firmly committed to protecting the DOD workforce and their families and safeguarding the department's mission capabilities, he said. Department personnel are also working on the front lines to combat the effects of a pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans.

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DOD works in support of civilian agencies in this effort. DOD personnel are working in many civilian hospitals to help in the crisis. They're also helping with logistics, and leaders are looking for ways the department can do more. "Today there are over 20,000 National Guardsmen deployed providing COVID support, including at over 216 vaccine sites in 36 states and territories," Rose said. "DOD has over 1,000 military medical personnel on prepare-to-deploy orders available to support state and local requests for assistance that have come through FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency]."

The current support includes 224 medical personnel to support eight hospitals and an intensive care unit facility in California. There are another 80 medical personnel to support three hospitals in Texas, and 87 medical personnel are supporting three hospitals in Arizona and New Mexico. 

A nurse wearing personal protective equipment prepares intravenous medication for a patient.
Preparing Meds
Army Capt. Tammy Heredia, a registered nurse assigned to the Army Reserve Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force 328-1 supporting Yuma Regional Medical Center, prepares intravenous medication for one of her patients in Yuma, Ariz., Jan. 21, 2021. Heredia is a member of a medical support team assigned to Yuma, integrating with the hospital’s staff to boost the region’s capacity to care for the surge of COVID-19 patients. Northern Command, through Army North, remains committed to providing flexible Defense Department support to the whole-of-government COVID-19 response.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Cambrin Bassett
VIRIN: 210121-A-SB126-1051

The Army Corps of Engineers has deployed more than 40 personnel to help California hospitals handle the flood of COVID-19 cases. "Those resources are certainly available to any hospital or any other health care entity that is looking to expand their existing infrastructure," Rose said.

Friedrichs spoke about the department's vaccine plan, which is aligned with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's rollout plan. 

Vaccinations for groups in the first category began in December. This is almost finished, he said, and includes medical personnel, police, emergency frontline workers, and those caring for patients or military personnel with COVID-19. The residents of the Armed Forces Retirement Centers in Washington, D.C., and Gulfport, Mississippi, have also been vaccinated. The department will now move on to those beneficiaries over 75 and personnel who are preparing to deploy outside the United States. Also in this tranche are personnel in strategic or national security roles, as well as key frontline workers like teachers, support staff and those working in child and youth services.

Two soldiers sit with their sleeves rolled up as two other service members administer shots to them.
First Vaccinations
Army Health Clinic Stuttgart conducts its first inoculations of health care workers and first responders with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Dec. 31, 2020. Lt. Col. Adam Cronkhite, seated left, director of emergency services, and Lt. Col. Maria Bruton, seated right, commander of the clinic, were the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the Stuttgart military community.
Photo By: Becca Castellano, Army
VIRIN: 201231-A-QQ596-0002Y
A soldier wearing a face mask administers a COVID-19 vaccine to an elderly woman.
Jacksonville Vaccination
Barbara Bufano gets the COVID-19 vaccine at Naval Hospital Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Fla., Jan. 15, 2021. Vaccines are currently being offered to on-base health care personnel and first responders assigned to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Naval Station Mayport and critical national capabilities forces, deploying forces, frontline essential workers, and beneficiaries age 75 and older. COVID-19 vaccines are not available by walk-in for non-hospital personnel.
Photo By: Deidre Smith, Navy
VIRIN: 210115-N-QA097-642A

"That group will then be followed by those who are over the age of 65, as well as younger personnel who have significant risk factors, and we'll continue to work through the DOD extended family until everyone who desires to have a vaccine has been able to receive it," the general said.

He stressed that this will take some time to accomplish. To date, the department has received 769,000 doses of the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines. These have been distributed to 306 sites around the world. "If we look at the last two weeks, DOD has administered all of the vaccine doses received," the general said. "That's, I think, an example of the great work done by many people across our bases and in our communities to make sure that we're as efficient as possible with this."

Both Rose and Friedrichs promised regular reports on the progress in the future.

Watch the entire press briefing:

 

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