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US military team to assist Navajo Nation hospital in NM

January 21, 2022 GMT

SHIPROCK, N.M. (AP) — More than 200 U.S. military medical personnel are being deployed to eight states and the Navajo Nation, including a hospital in New Mexico, to support civilian health care workers treating COVID-19 patients.

A 20-person team from the U.S. Army will provide support for the Navajo Nation at Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock.

Lt. Gen. John R. Evans Jr., U.S. Army north commander in San Antonio, Texas, announced the deployments Friday to New Mexico, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Michigan and Texas.

The Defense Department approved the activation at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Resources.

All of the 220 personnel will be available by the end of January, Evans said. The 43 medical teams join 20 teams of about 400 military medical personnel who have been providing assistance to civilian hospitals since last August.

“We are committed to working alongside our civilian medical partners to assist hard-hit states and communities in need,” Evans said.

Hospitals in Farmington and Albuquerque also have received federal staffing help.

New Mexico health officials also announced Friday that COVID-19 was recently identified as the third leading cause of death for residents in 2020, outpaced only by fatalities attributed to cancer and heart disease. That year, there were 2,847 deaths reported in New Mexico where COVID-19 was the leading cause.

Despite the surge of the omicron variant, the state Health Department said death rates associated with the virus have plummeted. Many of the positive cases from the highly transmissible variant have been mild infections that do not require hospitalization, and state officials pointed Friday to the vaccination campaign as a reason for the decline in the death rate.