AUSTIN, Texas - Nationwide, nearly 27,000 National Guard soldiers, including units from Texas, are working in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. When Hurricane Harvey hit, 17,000 guard members from Texas were deployed, and while the number now is much smaller, a surge is not being ruled out.
Camp Mabry is the logistics hub for the Texas National Guard's COVID-19 response. As of Tuesday afternoon, the deployment involves 700 Guard members, which includes 50 from the state Guard. That number could increase if the outbreak, as expected, intensifies.
Guard members are reporting to and staging out of readiness centers, which are essentially distribution warehouses.
"And currently eight of those readiness centers are being used to store commodities in order to distribute them across the state of Texas,” said Major General Tracy Norris, the adjutant general for the Texas Military Department, who added that the deployment by the Guard so far is a support mission.
They set up a pop-up hospital in a Dallas convention center and will also help other communities install tent hospitals to increase bed capacity. Guard members are also working at some drive-thru testing centers, mostly for traffic control, and units are transporting medical supplies.
This new mission is taking place while Guard members are currently staged on Texas' border with Mexico. That job will continue with some adjustments, according to Norris.
"So those soldiers and airmen will continue to do the job they are assigned as long as need, they have also been given some additional protective equipment so they can stay safe and healthy and continue the job on the Southwest border,” Norris said.
Norris also addressed fears that they are doing more than just assisting.
"I would like to dispel any rumor out there you might have heard or seen that any of our soldiers, airmen or state guard are participating in anything such as martial law. This is not the case. We are Texans serving Texans, we are here to serve you we want to kill this COVID*19 virus,” said Norris.
As of last week, 11 Texas Guard members have confirmed cases of COVID-19 and were exposed to the virus while on trips before Abbott issued his activation order last month.
FOX 7 Austin is working to keep you up to date with coronavirus, with both local and national developments. Every weekday we're live at 12 p.m. with a special show reporting the latest news, prevention tips and treatment information.
You can also get the latest COVID-19 news from around the country at coronavirusnow.com.