Texas National Guard unit to base in Dallas

Dallas County leads the state with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths. On Friday it reported 64 new cases for a total of 367 cases, including seven deaths so far.

State officials also said Friday that one of the three Texas National Guard units that have been activated will be based in the county.

The 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team is based in the DFW area.

Dallas County officials said hospitalizations are increasing from the virus, with 36 percent of those hospitalized having to be sent to the ICU. Two-thirds of the hospitalizations are partients either 60-plus or have at least one high-risk chronic condition.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday officially deployed three Texas National Guard brigades to help with the coronavirus response.

The head of the Dallas County Medical Society talked Friday about those guard members, many retired health professionals and what both groups might do.

The three brigades are very distinct: one versed in standing up facilities, another has its expertise in the medical field, a third has previously been key in the distribution of supplies.

The National Guard’s mission, across the state and here in Dallas at this time, is two-part: to help set up and staff drive-thru testing sites and support our healthcare system by delivering supplies and equipment.

As this pandemic continues, it is the National Guard that will find places that can become healthcare facilities and convert them into hospitals.

There are not specifics, at this time, about how many more drive-thru testing sites there could be, or where the supplies and equipment for our healthcare providers will be delivered.

And we don’t know how many makeshift hospitals will be built yet.

Judge Clay Jenkins said on Thursday the Texas National Guard mission would be medical, not military. He hoped the guard along with health care professionals would be in neighborhoods and do what Jenkins called disease detective work — tracing community contacts of someone who tested positive.

But Gov. Abbott said no such request has been officially made, yet.

Judge Jenkins’ chief of staff said Friday that they have been finalizing the requests and did not know the timeline for when they would make it to the governor.