Pentagon prepares to send troops out to battle omicron

Pentagon prepares to send troops out to battle omicron

The Defense Department is fleshing out a plan to deploy medical specialists across the country to help communities hit hard by the recent surge of coronavirus cases in America.

The move, announced by the White House, is part of a plan to help hospitals battle the fast-spreading omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.

President Biden directed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to have 1,000 troops — a mixture of military doctors, nurses, paramedics and other medical personnel — ready to move out by January.

“We’ll work with state and local authorities as appropriate to identify the right locations (and) the right hospitals that they need to go to,” chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Tuesday.

The medical teams will be coming from the active-duty ranks, officials said.

“Since COVID began, our military medical personnel have been committed to fighting the pandemic and supporting our local, state, and federal partners and communities in need,” said Lt. Gen. John R. Evans Jr. commander of U.S. Army North and Fifth Army.

Pentagon officials are now hammering out the details of the mission, including which units will get the tasking and where the medics will be sent.

“Warning orders will go out to the services, to the units, and to the individuals themselves,” Mr. Kirby said. “We have to make sure we give them enough time to prepare for it.”

The latest plan is reminiscent of the outsized role the military had in the early stages of the pandemic.

The Pentagon was tasked with setting up field hospitals around the country to prepare for an expected influx of COVID-19 victims and to have the Navy’s two hospital ships — the USNS Comfort and the USNS Mercy — on station in New York and Los Angeles.

After observing that the fixed clinics got little business, military officials concluded that using their medical teams to augment overworked staffers at civilian hospitals was the preferable option.

A 20-person team from the Navy will be sent to Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis while another contingent of 20 medical troops will head out to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to work at a hospital there, officials said.

“As we look ahead to the holiday season and 2022, we must remain vigilant in our fight,” Lt. Gen. Evans said. “We must keep in our thoughts the service members and health care professionals on the front lines.”

The administration is activating FEMA response teams to help states and hospitals add capacity and support states so they can create and license more beds.

The White House said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is set to deploy hundreds of ambulances and emergency medical teams so they can transport COVID patients to other facilities if a hospital fills up.

“The administration is also continuing to provide 100 percent federal reimbursement to states for all COVID-19 emergency response costs,” according to the White House.