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Task Force Spartan works to protect Soldiers from COVID-19

By Master Sgt. Thomas Wheeler | 42nd Infantry Division | April 13, 2020

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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 (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health are leading the fight in the homeland, the U.S. Army response in a large portion of the U.S. Army Central area of operations is 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.”

“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 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 help prevent the spread of the illness.

“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 CDC also recommends a few other precautions.

According to the CDC website, coronavirus is thought to spread from person to person through close contact so it strongly recommends staying at least 6 feet away from other people. Also, if hand-washing is not an option, the CDC recommends using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. In addition, you should avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

“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,” she said. “So that’s the main thing, be considerate of others and protect yourself by washing your hands and practicing good hygiene.”

It’s also a good idea to 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.

What should you do if you think you’ve been exposed to the virus?

“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.”

“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.”

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.”