Operation Warp Speed Makes Swift Progress

Unprecedented progress has been made recently on Operation Warp Speed — the effort by the Defense Department, Health and Human Services, other federal agencies and private industry to develop a coronavirus vaccine, an HHS official said today.

In a telephone briefing with reporters, HHS policy deputy chief of staff Paul Mango said, “We’re very, very pleased with where we are.” He was joined on the media conference call by Dr. Janet Woodcock, M.D., the director of the centers for drug evaluation research at the Food and Drug Administration, and Dr. Jay Butler, the deputy director for infectious diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mango reminded reporters that four of the six vaccine candidates are in phase III clinical trials, and added that the Food and Drug Administration continues to review vaccine safety information on the candidates.

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How a military medical team used a dive chamber to save hurricane victims

When Hurricane Laura raked Port Arthur, Texas in late August, a group of seven shrimp boat laborers found shelter in a local pool hall.

And when the Category 4 hurricane knocked out electricity, a gas generator was turned on to power the building. But the ventilation inside was far from adequate. The seven people spent all night breathing the odorless gas from the generator, causing severe carbon monoxide poisoning.

Three people were pronounced dead at the scene when police arrived on the morning of Aug. 28, and one was taken to a hospital in Houston. Three others were eventually sent into the care of a joint medical team from the Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center and the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine Department at the Brooke Army Medical Center on Fort Sam Houston, near San Antonio.

The hyperbaric chamber operated at that installation is one of the very few on the Gulf Coast that’s open for emergencies, and its medical teams maintain a 24/7-ready status for that purpose.

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DOD Sites Selected for Phase III COVID-19 Vaccine Trials: Five Medical Treatment Facilities in National Capital Region, San Antonio, and San Diego to Participate

As part of the Operation Warp Speed (OWS) goal to deliver safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics by January 2021, five DoD locations have been identified to participate in the Phase III trial evaluating the vaccine candidate AZD1222 under development by AstraZeneca.

“The Department of Defense continues to play a key role in the development of a potential COVID-19 vaccine,” said Honorable Tom McCaffery, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. “Now that vaccines have passed the first phases of testing for safety, dosing and response, we are ready to move into the next phase where volunteers are needed to join large clinical studies. We are excited to have several sites identified to support the next steps in the vaccine development process.”   

The DoD sites selected are:

  • Naval Medical Center San Diego (Site Code: NMSD)
  • Joint Base San Antonio Brooke Army Medical Center (Site Code: BAMC)
  • Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center (San Antonio) (Site Code: WHASC)
  • Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (Bethesda, MD) (Site Code: WRMC) and
  • Fort Belvoir Community Hospital (Fort Belvoir, VA) (Site Code FBCH)

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DOD Provides On-Line Mental Health Resources Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

In its continued efforts to provide resources to service members and their families, the Department of Defense issued an info sheet highlighting a few of the many resources available to help those who may be coping with an experience of sexual assault.

As service members continue to experience daily challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DOD wants everyone to know that assistance for sexual assault remains available for all service members and their dependents.

More information can be found here.

Study prompts re-emphasis on alcohol abuse treatment options

SEMBACH, Germany — The Army had the highest rate of alcohol-related trips to the hospital between 2009 and 2018, according to a recently released report on alcohol abuse in the military conducted by the Military Health System.

The Army was followed by the Marine Corps, Navy and then Air Force, according to the Defense Department study, which did not include the Coast Guard.

The good news for those experiencing problems controlling their alcohol intake is that Soldiers can now seek treatment for alcohol abuse without fear of career consequence thanks to an Army directive signed in March 2019 by then Secretary Of The Army Mark Esper.

Army Directive 2019-12 “allows Soldiers who meet specific criteria to receive care without notification to their commanders, as long as the criteria for non-notification are met and maintained throughout voluntary care,” said Dr. Cheryl Owen, the regional manager for Substance Use Disorders Clinical Care at Regional Health Command Europe.

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After spiking through June and July, military COVID-19 cases level off

The last week in July showed a sizeable slowdown in the increase of coronavirus cases among service members, from a peak of more than 4,000 cases in one week earlier in the month.

With a total of 27,536 infections as of Friday morning, Defense Department officials have attributed the rapid rise in cases to increased testing and community transmission in states like California, Arizona, Texas and Florida, which set records for new numbers of cases throughout the month.

“We’ve not seen any widespread evidence that what’s occurring in the 18-to-24 demographic is because they’re not following the rules,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs, the Joint Staff surgeon said Thursday, announcing that young people in the military were showing a slightly higher infection rate than American young adults.

The services saw a 15-percent rise in cases in the last week, or 3,593 new diagnoses. The leveling off came after July 24′s numbers showed major increases of the rate of new infections in the Air Force (58 percent), Marine Corps (55 percent) and National Guard (41 percent).

Those increases corresponded to surges within states with large numbers of those troops, namely Florida, Texas and California. In addition to local governments relaxing stay-at-home orders in those states, the services have also opened up non-essential travel in Texas, though Florida, Michigan and California remain the only closed states.

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Army researchers say this is the best material for a homemade face mask they’ve found so far

The best easy-to-find material for a homemade face covering to protect against coronavirus transmission is four-ply microfiber cloth, according to Army researchers at the service’s Combat Capabilities Development Command.

Researchers with the command’s Chemical Biological Center said in a Wednesday news release that the four-ply microfiber cloth, which can be found in the cleaning section of most big box stores, filters out more than 75 percent of particles.

An N-95 mask, the protective covering in short supply among hospital workers who need it most, is able to filter out 90 percent of particles, they said.

Layering a polyester bandanna can filter out about 40 percent of suspended particles, the release added. Officials from the command did not immediately respond to a request for comment asking how well the neck gaiters perform, which are commonly worn by soldiers.

The team made the determinations after testing more than 50 materials — with more tests ongoing — by spraying a salt aerosol at a piece of the chosen material.

The salt particles used to test the filter were 0.2-0.3 microns in size. Coronavirus is roughly 0.1 microns in size, but the virus floats around in droplets expelled by infected persons that are anywhere from 0.2 to a several microns in size or larger.

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Hearing loss prevention focus of Better Hearing and Speech Month

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, which aims to raise awareness concerning disorders of speech, hearing, voice, and language. The Army Hearing Program is committed to hearing loss prevention and reducing noise hazards.

Roughly 40 million adults in the United States report difficulty hearing, and the most common cause of hearing loss is noise exposure.

“Hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) are the top two service-connected injuries in the military,” said Capt. Theresa Galan, the Army hearing program manager at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. “Noise-induced hearing loss is painless, progressive, permanent and nearly always preventable.”

The Army Hearing Program works to prevent hearing loss through unit and individual education, hearing protection devices, hearing monitoring services, and range and hazardous noise area inspections.

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For second week, about 1,000 new coronavirus cases among troops

Nearly 3,000 service members have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the Defense Department’s latest data, with about 2,300 cases still active and almost 1,000 new cases added in each of the last two weeks.

With 2,986 cases among troops, the military’s infection rate now stands at 1,421-per-million, or 0.14 percent. That’s compared to the overall U.S. rate of 1,932-per-million, or 0.2 percent.

The Navy saw its cases rise above 1,000 this week, hitting 1,017 on Friday. Much of that surge has come from 100-percent testing aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, which has been pierside in Guam for nearly two weeks following an outbreak.

Of 4,800 sailors on board, about 4,500 had been tested as of Friday morning. Of 660 positive tests, more than half have come from asymptomatic sailors, senior Pentagon leadership confirmed this week.

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Iranian ships harassed American vessels in Persian Gulf, military says

The U.S. military on Wednesday denounced what it described as provocative maneuvers by Iranian vessels near American naval and Coast Guard ships in the Persian Gulf.

In a statement, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command said 11 small vessels belonging to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy conducted “dangerous and harassing approaches” toward a fleet of American ships, including the USS Lewis B. Puller, an expeditionary mobile base vehicle, and the USS Paul Hamilton, a destroyer.

The American ships were carrying out operations with Army Apache helicopters in the northern Gulf, the statement said.

The Iranian vessels “repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds, including multiple crossings of the Puller with a 50 yard closest point of approach and within 10 yards” of a Coast Guard ship’s bow, according to the military.

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Army Leaders Detail Efforts Against Coronavirus

Army has 288 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — 100 are soldiers, 64 are civilian employees, 65 are dependents, nine are cadets and 50 are Army contractors.

Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville and others briefed reporters at the Pentagon today on steps the service is taking in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. They spoke about force health protection, coronavirus testing and how the service maintains its combat effectiveness.

The Army has also reached out to retired personnel who have the qualifications to help in the fight against COVID-19.

The Army has 288 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — 100 are soldiers, 64 are civilian employees, 65 are dependents, nine are cadets and 50 are Army contractors.

McConville said that the service is rushing two field hospitals to the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City.

The 531st Army Hospital from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and the 9th Army Hospital from Fort Hood, Texas, received orders to deploy to New York City on March 23.

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Army gauges interest in voluntary recalls of medical soldiers

The Army is gauging interest from retired officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers who would be willing to assist with the coronavirus pandemic response effort should their skills and expertise be required, according to an email sent out Wednesday afternoon and provided to Army Times.

“These extraordinary challenges require equally extraordinary solutions and that’s why we’re turning to you — trusted professionals capable of operating under constantly changing conditions,” the email reads. “When the Nation called — you answered, and now, that call may come again.”

The email listed a series of Army health care jobs that would be of interest: 60F, critical care officer; 60N, anesthesiologist; 66F, nurse anesthetist; 66S, critical care nurse; 66P, nurse practitioner; 66T, emergency room nurse; 68V, respiratory specialist; and 68W, medic.

The message included an email signature for Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands, the Army deputy chief of staff for manpower.

An Army spokesperson said the email was part of their department’s effort to gauge “availability and capabilities” of retired career medical personnel to assist with the pandemic if needed.

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