ARIFJAN, Kuwait, –
As COVID-19, commonly referred to as the Coronavirus, steadily advances, Task Force Spartan is working hard to prepare and protect its subordinate units and their Soldiers deployed throughout the Middle East.
Although U.S. government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute for Health are leading the fight on the homeland, the U.S. Army response in a large portion of the U.S. Army Central area of operations has been entrusted to Task Force Spartan.
"We recently stood up the COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center, also referred to as the CEOC," said Maj. Brian Baglin, a medical plans officer assigned to Task Force Spartan Shield. "For all intents and purposes, Task Force Spartan Shield is the Army's lead agency for coordinating and synchronizing a unified response plan within the region."
A three-pronged approach to Covid-19 response
"We are taking a three-pronged approach in dealing with COVID-19," said Baglin." First, is through education. Second, we're ensuring that we're implementing safety measures to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. And thirdly, we're ensuring that all of our bases have comprehensive COVID-19 response plans are in place."
Baglin said that educating Soldiers on what COVID-19 is and what it isn't, quells rumors, and encouraging leaders at all levels to implement proper safeguards like screenings at entry control points will go a long way in preventing the spread of the illness. He also added that ensuring all military bases have comprehensive COVID-19 plans in place will help prepare them for dealing with potential COVID-19 patients if they arise.
What precautions should you take?
"Essentially, in this arena, in this environment, there is a bit of a challenge because Soldiers are living together, eating together. So, the best thing that they can do is to practice good hygiene," said Maj. Julie Valenza, a physician assistant with Task Force Spartan. "If you touch a surface and then put your hands in your mouth, you're potentially introducing the virus into your system. So, washing your hands is really the best thing you can do."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends a few other precautions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website coronavirus is thought to spread from person to person through close contact and highly recommends social distancing yourself from other people by maintaining at least 6-feet from another person. Also, if hand-washing is not an option, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol along with avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website also recommends taking precautions when making contact with those that may be at high risk for contracting the illness such as people aged 65 years and older or those who suffer from other high-risk conditions like chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma or people who have serious heart conditions.
"If you do feel like you might be having a sniffle or a cough, be considerate of others and cover it," said Valenza. "Cover it either with a tissue in front of your face to collect those droplets that you could be putting out into the air. If you don't have something to use to put on your face, cough or sneeze into your elbow into your own fabric so that you can prevent that from getting out into the air and potentially exposing other people. So that's the main thing, be considerate of others and protect yourself by washing your hands and practicing good hygiene."
Disinfect work areas and personal electronic devices.
"We're all carrying our cell phones and using them all day long so getting one of the disinfecting wipes and cleaning off your cellphone a couple of times a day is a good idea,” said Valenza. “It's simple, wiping down your keyboard and your work area at the start of the day, and at the end of the day, it's really a good practice to do. If you're using a communal keyboard, clean it off before and after use."
What should you do if you think you've been exposed?
"So, the first thing they should do is notify their chain of command." said Valenza. "There are protocols in place for each step of the way. Make sure you're starting with your chain of command. They will then call the TMC or the emergency room and get you started on the process for screening, testing, and isolation or quarantine."
Isolation versus Quarantine.
"We want to quarantine people if they have had an exposure or come from a place that is known to have a lot of COVID-19 cases. So, we'll quarantine well people to see if they develop symptoms if they've had exposures. Isolation separates sick people from those who are not sick."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website, isolation "separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick."
With no cure, how do we treat the sick?
"If they get sick, they're going to have to treat their symptoms," said Valenza. "So, Tylenol, ibuprofen, fluids, lots of fluids and cough medicine, if you're coughing. If you develop worsening symptoms, then you're going to need to be evaluated probably at a higher level of care. You may need to be treated in the hospital for higher level of supportive care."
Basic guidance to subordinate commands.
"The general guidance we are giving our major subordinate commands is to take Covid-19 seriously," said Baglin. "It's about controlling the flow of patients and making sure our medical treatment facilities aren't overwhelmed with a large number of cases. So be ready so that we can minimize the impact.”
Information about Covid-19
For more information on COVID-19, see your commands medical staff and go to coronavirus.gov for more detailed information on COVID-19 and the appropriate protective measure you can take to protect yourself and your fellow Soldiers.