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Commentary: When coronavirus evacuees arrived, Military City, USA, responded

Article from MySanAntonio

Adriana Rocha Garcia, For the Express-News

For more than 175 years, the city of San Antonio has been a central site for our country’s military activity. Much of our city’s history is deeply influenced by the many military bases that now make up Joint Base San Antonio. As the city that prides itself on being Military City, USA, we know the critical role our military bases and our servicemen and servicewomen play in our regional economy. In times of crisis or uncertainty, it is these brave men and women who are trained and equipped to protect us and keep our communities safe.

This February was no different with the arrival of 387 American evacuees from China’s Hubei province and the Grand Princess and Diamond Princess cruise ships to JBSA-Lackland for a federally mandated 14-day quarantine. The first evacuees marked the beginning of our response to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic.

As the City Council member representing District 4 in Southwest San Antonio where JBSA-Lackland is located, I was at first concerned about how this would impact residents, our military personnel, our first responders and our medical community. The site was chosen because not only did it have the dedicated airspace needed, but it also had the required lodging capacity of single bedrooms with private bathrooms and kitchenettes that made it suitable for quarantined evacuees.

Those initial days were a trying period that put our city’s emergency and preparedness plans to the test. Working with regional, state and federal entities required great levels of coordination and communication to enact and implement a plan for an unprecedented event.

Local entities such as our regional hospital system, the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council, and our city’s Metropolitan Health District and Fire Department assisted in these coordinated efforts, becoming an appendage to our military installation and working as a team.

No one asked us whether these entities were prepared and equipped to host these evacuees, yet our city went beyond the call of duty to assist JBSA. Many lives were saved while residents were kept protected, and we should be proud of all those who answered the call.

As the last evacuees return home, I want to thank all who aided this critical mission and the compassionate residents of Military City, USA. I am proud to represent the district where JBSA-Lackland is located and the courageous folks who always accept the call of duty to protect us against all enemies, including the unseen ones.

As our city’s response efforts continue, I encourage residents to keep all of our first responders in your thoughts and prayers as we combat the spread of COVID-19.

Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia represents District 4 in Southwest San Antonio.

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