One of five federal medical assistance teams from the Department of Defense will be deployed in Lafayette, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said during a Tuesday briefing.
"In response to the latest surge, and at the request of FEMA, the Department of Defense is identifying five medical assistance teams to support efforts around the nation," Kirby said Tuesday afternoon.
Each team will have about 20 medical personnel from the U.S. Navy, including doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists and will support one hospital in Lafayette, Ochsner Lafayette General. Ochsner Lafayette General currently has more than 150 COVID-19 patients. A U.S. official told ABC News that the troops are expected to arrive on Wednesday.
"Currently, the department will provide a medical assistance team -- one of these medical assistance teams to a hospital in Lafayette, Louisiana," Kirby said during the briefing. "We expect that there could be additional requests from other states for -- for other teams, and so that's why we're -- we're being prepared to stand up five teams. But one of them will be dedicated to going to Lafayette, Louisiana, again, at the request of FEMA and the state of Louisiana. So we're continuing to lean forward to help our fellow Americans deal with this latest surge in the pandemic."
U.S. Army North, or ARNORTH, will provide operational command of the active-duty military COVID-19 response in support of federal efforts and the state.
“This is the second time Department of Defense medical assets have deployed to support Louisiana during the pandemic,” said Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, ARNORTH commander. “While COVID-19 continues to challenge the community here and elsewhere in the U.S., we remain steadfast in our support of our local, state and federal partners.”
Lafayette Consolidated Government Chief Communications Officer Jamie Angelle told KATC that Our Lady of Lourdes is expected to be assigned a team as well, but as of now it's not known when.
“Defending the nation, which includes defeating COVID-19, is truly a joint effort,” said Richardson. “U.S. Army North is proud to contribute alongside and in support of civil authorities in the whole-ofgovernment fight against COVID-19, as the command remains prepared for potential, future allhazards response and homeland defense.”
We reached out to Ochsner Lafayette General and Our Lady of Lourdes. A spokesperson for Lourdes said they have not yet received any official notification of teams assigned to their hospitals. We'll update this story as soon as we hear back from OLG.
Also today, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that the Biden Administration had extended the National Guard’s Title 32 COVID-19 mission through the end of the year and 100 percent federal cost share for FEMA Public Assistance Category B – Emergency Protective Measures.
“I want to thank President Biden and his administration for recognizing the ongoing important role of the National Guard in our fight against COVID-19. Our state was the first to petition the administration to extend Title 32 until the end of the year, and I’m grateful for President Biden’s decision. The Guard is a critical part of what we do especially as we continue battling this devastating fourth surge of COVID driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant. On any given week, hundreds of soldiers and airmen are administering thousands of tests and vaccines, providing medical support and distributing supplies and food to food banks across the state. Keeping them in place is incredibly important.
“In Louisiana, today, we reported over 3,000 COVID hospitalizations for this first time since the beginning of the pandemic and sadly, 122 deaths, the second highest single day death count. We are working hard to increase vaccinations throughout our state, and these efforts rely heavily on assistance from our federal partners. The Louisiana National Guard has 919 Guardsmen currently activated, and I am extremely grateful for their hard work and commitment to protecting and serving the people of this great state.”