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Why are Fort Hood soldiers still training? Officials respond in virtual town hall

Darnall Hospital, Fort Hood, TX. (U.S. Army/Released)

Officials from Fort Hood on Thursday answered questions through a Facebook Live virtual town hall about why the military post was still training its soldiers, even as the Texas governor that same day banned gatherings of 10 people or more to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

“The core responsibilities of soldiers continue, even in times of crisis like COVID-19,” said Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, Fort Hood’s deputy commanding general. “Like a first responder, we don’t get off days. While maintaining the health and safety of soldiers, families and communities, we need to take every chance to maintain our edge, our readiness.”

Efflandt said he didn’t foresee the post getting locked down, though they could reduce the number of personnel on the post if they experience a COVID-19 outbreak.

A lockdown “would not be appropriate for the infectious disease we’re facing now,” he said. “What you would likely see, if we get an exponential increase in the outbreak of the disease, is a reduction of services on the garrison — up to and including minimum personnel only. It would look more like when we have an ice storm here or bad weather. It would be key and essential (personnel), and we would take that pause while we regrouped and assessed what that environment would look like.”

Col. Richard Malish, who heads the post’s medical center, said the hospital is expected to have a drive-thru ready by the end of next week to test people with COVID-19 symptoms.

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Malish added that the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center is doing what it can to prepare for an influx of patients.

“We’re fortifying the hospital, but that is not enough,” he said. “We’re working to avoid having so many sick patients that it outpaces our ability to manage them.”

Another person asked about empty shelves at the commissaries on the post.

“We’re not having a problem getting products in,” said Col. Jason Wesbrock, commander of the garrison. However, he added, there “is an issue of stocking the shelves.”

Over the past week, the commissary has sold five times their daily average, Wesbrock said.

“Be patient,” he said, urging commissary patrons to not buy more than what they need.

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© 2020 Austin American-Statesman