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    Four task forces protect USAG Benelux from COVID-19

    Task Force Clean

    Courtesy Photo | CHIÈVRES, Belgium – In this Army file photo, a member of Task Force Clean wipes a...... read more read more



    Story by Bryan Gatchell 

    U.S. Army Garrison Benelux

    BRUSSELS -- Because of the threat of COVID-19, U.S. Army Garrison Benelux set up several task forces in March, including four to directly help prevent the spread of the virus on post.

    Each of the four different task forces has a different function and role in prevention and reaction, but their cumulative efforts result in a greater reduction of the possibility of spreading COVID-19.

    Task Force Screen screens visitors to the garrison, Task Force Clean cleans commonly touched surfaces, Task Force Trace traces the contacts of people who are lab-confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19, and Task Force Quarantine / Isolate quarantines probable COVID-19 carriers and isolates confirmed COVID-19 patients.

    Task Force Screen, which is under the purview of the Directorate of Emergency Services, asks everyone entering post whether they have experienced symptoms of COVID-19.

    “Task Force Screen is the first line of defense for our installation,” said Master Sgt. Joshua DuBois, the provost noncommissioned officer. “They’re the Soldiers and guards who are performing screening questions at the gate for everyone who enters to ensure they are healthy and can enter the installation.”

    While this is an important step in preventing the spread of the virus onto post, not everyone who has been exposed to COVID-19 may be presenting symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath and fever. And asymptomatic people may yet bring the virus on post and spread it unbeknownst to them.

    That’s where Task Force Clean comes in. It is run by USAG Benelux Headquarters and Headquarters Company, and they conduct two types of cleaning. With enhanced cleaning, the task force sanitizes common areas in the garrison and a lot of the surfaces people touch like door handles and light switches. If there is a worry that an area was occupied by someone that may be COVID-19 positive, Task Force Clean will clean it more thoroughly.

    “The more you disinfect, it will definitely help decrease the spread of that virus,” said Capt. Daniese Roberts, HHC commander, who also leads the task force. “The cleaner things are, the more sanitized things are, the safer we are.

    Roberts was pleased with her role in the garrison’s prevention efforts.

    “We’re lucky to contribute the way that we contribute, to ensure that the safety of those around us is first and foremost,” she said

    Both task forces Screen and Clean work in concert to reduce the possibility of the spread of the virus on the installation, either carried on post by a visitor or picked up from a surface.

    Nevertheless, if someone visited post and developed symptoms afterwards or tested positively for COVID-19, Task Force Trace, which is run by military medical staff, investigates and gets into contact with those people who might have been exposed. They contact all those who might have been in contact and screen them verbally for the COVID-19 symptoms.

    “The only way you can contain or limit the spread of the infection is to be able to know who was exposed to the virus,” said Lt. Col. Simeon Smith, the chief of preventive medicine at the SHAPE Healthcare Facility and Brussels Army Health Clinic, who is serving as the lead of Task Force Trace.

    Once they know who possibly was exposed to the virus, then they can get those people to begin limiting their movements.

    “If you restrict them from moving, the chances of them infecting other people is very slim,” said Smith.

    And helping restrict movement is the role of Task Force Quarantine / Isolate. They modified buildings at Caserne Daumerie and at Dülmen Army Prepositioned Stock site in Germany so individuals potentially infected or confirmed as infected can wait for symptoms to present or not.

    The task force is run by the Directorate of Public Works, who not only prepared the facility but also manage the people entering and exiting. They have also installed the plexiglass shields throughout the garrison for those personnel who often come into contact with the public.

    Rod Oshiro, the director of Public Works (DPW) and the lead for Task Force Q/I, said there have been challenges in large part because what they are doing is so new to them and the Army.

    “Everything we learn as we go through it,” he said. “We’re constantly trying to develop this (standard operating procedure) that never existed before and to run facilities DPW and even the entire garrison has never run before.”

    Oshiro said the work his task force has accomplished is possible because of the people who work on it.

    “Our staff, they have been super flexible,” said Oshiro. “Whatever challenge was put in front of them, they come out and they figure it out.”

    Despite the work that goes on to keep the community safe, Smith, more in his role as chief of preventive medicine, urges community members to exercise their own power to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

    “We still have to continue practicing preventive measures,” said Smith. “We don’t know when this thing is going to end. But we can be (too relaxed) and we can still come in contact with the virus and transmit the virus, and that can prolong the time we will stay in lockdown. So we should do all – everything we can.”



    Date Taken: 04.15.2020
    Date Posted: 04.15.2020 11:39
    Story ID: 367436
    Location: BRUSSELS, BRU, BE 

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