AUSTIN, Texas - Gov. Greg Abbott has deployed the Texas National Guard to support the state's ongoing response to COVID-19.
Three Joint Task Force Brigades, the 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and the 176th Engineer Brigade, will operate ten general support units located throughout the state.
"Whether it’s overseas combat, major storms, or deadly viruses, the Texas National Guard is always quick to defend and serve their fellow Texans," said Abbott. "Texans can be grateful that these troops are now standing their post alongside healthcare professionals and first responders on the front lines of this crisis."
According to a release from the governor's office, Abbott has ordered an initial focus on two critical missions: assisting drive through testing sites and bolstering the state’s healthcare infrastructure. The release says the missions will "directly benefit from Texas National Guard’s unparalleled logistics capabilities, medical expertise, communications support, infrastructure maintenance, and transportation assets."
"We are citizen soldiers and we find our highest calling in serving our fellow citizens, no matter where duty calls us," said Major General Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas and commander of the Texas National Guard. "This will be no easy task but we have faced difficult times before. With the commitment of our soldiers and support of the community we will show the world that we are Texas strong and Texas proud, and together we will overcome this challenge."
Over the past week, guard members have practiced erecting and running drive-through testing site locations alongside medical staff to ensure a well-coordinated process allowing access COVID-19 screenings in a safe, efficient way that also limits contact with potentially infected members of the public.
The governor's office also says the guard is rolling out support for the state’s healthcare infrastructure with medical providers, equipment, and supplies needed to provide access to care. As the response advances, guardsmen will continue working with partners at the local, state, and national levels to identify and develop additional locations that can be converted to healthcare facilities.
Abbott has stressed this deployment will not diminish the Texas National Guard’s ability to meet other operational commitments.
Trained medical staff will be attached to each unit and provide screenings before each guard member is approved for the mission, says the governor's office. Any guard member showing signs of illness will receive treatment and the needed resources to recover while following all requirements outlined by the CDC. This measure will keep responding units healthy and reduce the potential spread of COVID-19.
On March 19, Abbott issued a public health disaster, the first in Texas since 1901. The executive orders, which took effect at midnight Friday, March 20 and goes through midnight on Friday, April 3, bring the state in line with CDC guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The public health disaster orders schools to be closed statewide until at least April 3. The disaster also orders a ban on dine-in eating and gathering in groups of more than 10 as the state ramps up efforts to battle the coronavirus. Abbott's order also will shut down gyms and bars. It also bans visits to nursing and retirement homes unless there is a critical need.
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