U.S. NORTHERN COMMAND, Colo. — U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs is the Department of Defense’s headquarters for responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
More than a thousand U.S Air Force members are being sent to New York to serve on the U.S.N.S. Comfort.
The USNS Comfort was originally designated to treat only non-COVID-19 patients to keep them separated from hospitals and lighten the load on the medical system. However, Monday night the military announced the comfort will take on patients with coronavirus because that is the current greatest need.
U.S. Air Force four-star General Terrence O’Shaughnessy spoke to the media Tuesday about their response.
“We reconfigured the ship, to be able to take COVID-19 patients. We have green areas and red areas. the green areas are where we keep our crew, keep folks that are not doing medical treatment, and keep them clean of the COVID-19 environment, other areas, set up to be able to operate with COVID-19 environment because the patients coming in we don’t know if they do or do not have the virus,” Gen. O’Shaughnessy said.
Coronavirus is public enemy number one.
“We are treating this as military campaign and it starts with our commander and chief and he’s declared war with COVID-19 and that’s exactly how we are treating it,” said Gen. O’Shaughnessy. “We have a mission that doesn’t stop just because we have COVID-19 situation.”
Meanwhile, a USNS Comfort crew member in New York tested positive for the Coronavirus. Gen. O’Shaughnessy said the crew member had no contact with patients and is not medical personnel. That person is in isolation.
Under the direction of FEMA medical personnel is being sent to the area with the most need, right now it’s New York, but Colorado is also on the radar.
“While we have not gotten a mission assignment yet, relative yet to Colorado,” said Gen. O’Shaughnessy. “We know it’s an area of concern. if we are given that responsibility it would be amazing to be able to provide assistance to the very community that has been providing such great, care and support for our team.”
Although they have the resources they need, members are still putting themselves at risk.
“Clearly they are at risk and we understand, they understand that. That’s the part of their commitment to our nation, and go toward the sound of gunfire –if you will — when the nation needs them. So it is not without risk,” the General said. “But at the same time, we are setting them up for success by setting them up of the things they need to be successful.”
Gen. O’Shaughnessy thanked the community in southern Colorado for their continued support.
“From the local population in the Colorado Springs area, support that we get is always outstanding, and it’s no different here. It matters because we are having a national level impact with the Northcom team here,” said Gen. O’Shaughnessy.
The General added that they are not sure how long this mission will last but said they would be at the ready as long as they need to be.