N.M. Delegation Requests Answers From U.S. Army After COVID-19 Cases Increase At Fort Bliss

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján, Deb Haaland, and Xochitl Torres Small are requesting answers on COVID-19 response efforts from the U.S. Army after a large outbreak of COVID-19 occurred in the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) at Fort Bliss.

In the letter, addressed to U.S. Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy, the New Mexico delegation expressed their concerns about the high number of COVID-19 cases in the 41st IBCT after the unit returned to Fort Bliss from Kosovo. The New Mexico delegation wrote that it remains concerned with “self-isolation and quarantine conditions the Army has put into place while monitoring and treating these servicemembers.”

The delegation laid out a series of requested responses from the U.S. Army including information on testing, contact tracing, and isolation and quarantine measures. The lawmakers are also requesting explanations on the capacity and strategies in place to test and care for units returning stateside.

Read the full text of the letter below or by clicking here.

Secretary McCarthy,

As members of the New Mexico Congressional delegation, we write with increasing concern regarding ongoing COVID-19 response efforts at Fort Bliss. As of December 7, 2020, we understand that at least 70 members of Oregon’s 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) have tested positive for COVID-19 upon their return to Fort Bliss from deployment in Kosovo. This represents a dramatic increase compared to the 10 Soldiers who tested positive on December 4, 2020.

We have also learned that dozens more are showing symptoms consistent with coronavirus and remain concerned about self-isolation and quarantine conditions the Army has put into place while monitoring and treating these servicemembers.

With these concerns in mind, we ask for your prompt response to the following questions to ensure the health and well-being of members of this unit and others returning from worldwide deployment:

  • What is the Department of the Army doing to ensure members of the 41st IBCT who have tested positive for COVID-19, those who are showing symptoms of exposure, and those who have been in contact with positive cases are placed in appropriate self-isolation and quarantine facilities? 
  • Has contact tracing identified any individuals outside of the 41st IBCT who may have been exposed to COVID-positive individuals? 
  • For the 62 Soldiers who received a negative test within the last 72 hours, what plan is there to re-test those individuals? Will they have to display symptoms to be re-tested? 
  • Does William Beaumont Army Medical Center have the capacity it needs to provide medical care to COVID-positive and symptomatic individuals? If not, what plans are being implemented to ensure treatment? 
  • What is the Department of the Army’s overall testing, isolation, and quarantine protocol for Soldiers upon returning stateside? What is the protocol and plan for living quarters during observation and quarantine? 
  • Under the current policy, does the Department of the Army have sufficient test kits, PPE, and personnel to test, trace, monitor and treat each Soldier currently mobilizing and demobilizing at Fort Bliss and other installations across the country? If not, what resources are needed? If the Army changed its policy to test all Soldiers, including those who are asymptomatic, would it have enough test kits? Thank you for your prompt attention to our questions and we are looking forward to your expedient response.