New Plymouth woman back home after providing medical support for U.S. evacuees from Wuhan, China

Responders from the HHS Critical Care Air Transport Team were called into action on Feb. 7 as part of the evacuation efforts of Americans from Wuhan in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Among those on the team was New Plymouth’s Deboarah Anderson.

OMAHA, Neb. — A respiratory therapist from New Plymouth, Deborah Anderson, has returned home from Camp Ashland Army National Guard Base near Omaha, Nebraska, after providing medical support for individuals who the U.S. government evacuated from Wuhan, China. Wuhan is the epicenter of an ongoing outbreak of a novel coronavirus known as CODIV-19. These returning passengers were housed on the military base while undergoing a mandatory 14-day quarantine. 

Anderson serves as a member of the National Disaster Medical System’s Disaster Medical Assistance Team. NDMS is among the resources made available by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. During and after disasters and emergencies, professionals from NDMS may supplement the public health and medical response at the request of the state. NDMS can be called into action to provide temporary medical assistance to U.S. citizens and their dependents who have been identified by the Department of State as having returned, or been brought from a foreign country, to the U.S. because of illness, war, threat of war, or a similar crisis.

On Feb. 7, a plane transporting evacuees from Wuhan, China, landed at Eppley Airfield and then were transferred to Camp Ashland ANGB. 

“The 57 returning passengers were tired, but very thankful the U.S. government brought them to the U.S.,” said Dr. Helga Scharf-Bell, NDMS acting director. “NDMS personnel along with U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps were onsite and worked in collaboration with the CDC to ensure that those returning were continuously monitored during the 14-day quarantine. NDMS responders rapidly and appropriately assessed, cared for, and isolated anyone who presented with symptoms of CODIV-19.”

Anderson was among 99 personnel – including physicians, nurses, paramedics, IT specialists, public affairs specialist, and experienced command and control staff – sent to Camp Ashland ANGB. 

A total of 628 HHS personnel have deployed to five military bases the Department of Defense identified to house evacuees returning on one of five chartered flights. In addition to Camp Ashland, bases include Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas; Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California; March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California; and Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego, California.

“The response to this rapidly evolving outbreak required a tremendous amount of interagency support, collaboration, and coordination,” said Jonathan Greene, ASPR’s Emergency Management and Medical Operations Director. “Within days, HHS and ASPR worked across the U.S. Government to identify housing, appropriate quarantine requirements, and wrap-around services for more than 800 evacuees that have returned to the United States.”

The temporary 14-day quarantine order began when the plane left Wuhan. The quarantine is part of an aggressive public health response, with the goal of detecting and minimizing introductions of this virus in the United States. The order also will protect the health of the returning citizens, their families, and their communities.

Protecting the health and safety of HHS responders is also a priority. Anderson and any colleagues working in direct response with CODIV-19 will undergo daily monitoring. Monitoring began the first day of contact with evacuees and continued for the duration of the deployment and for 14 days post-deployment.

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