Navy Medical Units Sent to Texas Coronavirus Hotspot

Posted: Jul 20, 2020 4:15 PM
Navy Medical Units Sent to Texas Coronavirus Hotspot

Texas Governor Greg Abbot (R) on Sunday welcomed five U.S. Navy teams to assist in the medical response to COVID-19 in the Rio Grande Valley.

“The support from our federal partners is crucial in our work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our communities throughout Texas," said Governor Abbott in a press release. "I am grateful for this ongoing partnership with the Department of Defense and the U.S. Navy, and the State of Texas will continue to utilize every resource available to protect public health and keep Texans in every community safe."

The Department of Defense has deployed U.S. Navy healthcare professionals to four Texas municipalities along the southernmost tail of the Rio Grande Valley: Harlingen, Del Rio, Eagle Pass and Rio Grande City.

In a leaked White House document dated July 14, Texas was designated a “red zone” state for both case count and test positivity rate, indicating more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population and a 10% or greater positivity rate for the week prior. The document also described Texas as in the yellow zone for the COVID-19 death rate and green zone for the total number of tests administered, on par with the rest of the country.

Two weeks ago on July 8, in response to an escalating outbreak, Gov. Abbot authorized a surge testing site in the Rio Grande Valley that remained in operation until July 14. 

As of July 19, Texas Medical Center in Houston, one of the most densely infected counties in the country, had utilized 8 percent of its Phase 2 ICU bed configurations and does not expect to move into Phase 3 soon. 

Concerns are highest in the Rio Grande Valley, where local hospitals have tapped further into their emergency ICU bed arrangements. One county in the area, Hidalgo, reports 10,943 active cases according to Texas Health and Human Services data, or 0.016 percent of its total population.

Hospitalizations in the area include not only U.S. citizens, but Mexican nationals who cross the border for medical purposes, provided for by the COVID-19 border shutdown rule.

Humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse had surveyed Hidalgo County in the Valley as a possible field hospital location after Congressman Vicente Gonzalez put forward a request. But Gov. Abbott declined, referencing the forthcoming medical troops.

“In our discussions with the Texas governor’s office, they informed us that they are supplementing local hospitals with doctors and nurses. They feel that this is sufficient now to meet the community’s needs,” the organization said in an email to The Monitor. “Because of this, Samaritan’s Purse will not be deploying an Emergency Field Hospital to McAllen, Texas, at this time.”

On July 17, an 85-member Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force team from U.S. Army North began operations in McAllen.