USPHS Commissioned Corps Ready to Take on Coronavirus

USPHS Commissioned Corps Ready to Take on Coronavirus
Passengers wear protective masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus as they arrive on a flight from Asia at the Los Angeles International Airport on Jan. 29. (Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)

As the number of people around the world infected with coronavirus continues to climb, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers are prepared to combat the virus on the home front.


Since Monday, Commissioned Corps officers have worn their operational dress uniforms to convey their readiness to take on missions in the U.S. to fight coronavirus, and they will do so until the threat is eradicated or significantly diminished.


“All of our officers are in their operational dress uniforms because we … are all ready to deploy as necessary. Right now, it’s a relatively limited deployment, although in very important roles,” said Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir, the Commissioned Corps’ top-ranking officer, in an interview with MOAA.


“It’s changing on a daily basis, and we stand ready to deploy as needed.”


[RELATED: Defense Health Agency Offers Guidance on Coronavirus]


As America’s health responders, the Commissioned Corps’ current missions related to coronavirus include supporting the return of American citizens from China, assisting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with airport screenings to monitor the health of travelers, and working in the Department of Health and Human Services secretary’s operations center.


While this situation poses a very serious public health threat, “we believe the risk to individuals in the U.S. to be low,” Giroir said. But it’s a rapidly evolving situation.


“We have very good control measures right now for those entering the country,” he said. “We have quarantines set up for [Americans] who have traveled in those areas.”


DoD is offering four military bases to accommodate up to 1,000 passengers who might need to be quarantined after traveling overseas. Bases include 168th Regiment, Regional Training Institute in Fort Carson, Colo.; Travis AFB, Calif.; Lackland AFB, Texas; and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.


As of Sunday, American citizens who have visited China's Hubei province in the last two weeks are subject to a quarantine of up to 14 days after arriving in the U.S.


Commissioned Corps officers are assisting with quarantine efforts.


“This is an important health event,” Giroir said. “As America’s health responders, we want to make sure we’re ready to go as needed.”  


For answers to frequently asked questions and the latest updates on coronavirus, visit the CDC’s website.

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About the Author

Laural Hobbes
Laural Hobbes

Hobbes is a former senior editor at Military Officer magazine.