May Message from the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs

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MHS Team:

The Department of Defense continues to deliver on Secretary Esper’s
priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect our people, maintain
readiness, and support the national COVID-19 response. Together, Health
Affairs, the military services, the Joint Staff surgeon, the Defense Health
Agency, and the Uniformed Services University are rising to the challenge of
managing an aggressive response to the virus.

Here are updates on issues Health Affairs is tracking.

* Testing: Major General Lee Payne, Defense Health Agency Assistant
Director, Combat Support, has been designated by the Department’s COVID-19
Task Force as the DoD’s lead to implement the Department’s tiered approach
to increase diagnostic and surveillance testing for personnel tied to
critical mission requirements. Thanks to the hard work from your teams, we
are on track to meet the operational Tier 1 requirements. We’ve completed
more than 85,000 tests and tested nearly 1,000 DoD personnel supporting the
New York City response. As we work through Tier 2 and Tier 3 requirements,
we are also looking to support sentinel surveillance testing for Tier 4
requirements. Maj Gen Payne and his team are carrying out impressive work to
spearhead testing protocols, identifying and validating Service and
combatant command requirements, managing logistics, and finalizing reporting
requirements for this massive effort.

* Advancing Force Health Protection: Health Affairs subject matter experts
are deeply involved in developing Force Health Protection guidance for the
Department, including the most recent update, Supplement 8, for protecting
personnel in the workplace. We expect new and revised guidance to be issued
shortly on Clinical Laboratory Diagnostic Testing Services; Surveillance and
Screening with Testing; Risk-Based Lowering of Health Protection Condition
Levels; and Resuming Elective Surgical, Invasive, and Dental Procedures in
Military Medical and Dental Treatment Facilities.

* Vaccine & Antibody Therapeutics Acceleration Strategy: Military Medicine
has a long history of rapid innovation and medical advances. From a
battlefield evacuation system that became the foundation for a modern
Emergency Medical Services system to advances in damage control surgery and
trauma management that have informed nationwide trauma practice, our
commitment to continuous learning and evolution of medicine has always
placed the Military Health System at the forefront. Now, once again, DoD is
out in front leveraging our world-class research capabilities and
partnerships with the Department of Health and Human Services and others to
not only develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine, but to also ensure its rapid
mass production to support a rapid national vaccination effort. This effort,
known as Operation Warp Speed, and supported through funding from the CARES
Act, is streamlining multiple research efforts both in vaccines and
therapeutics and is producing developmental strategies for the manufacturing
and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine and treatment therapies.

The pandemic response I’ve seen from our collective MHS team has reinforced
the significant roles you play and the historic difference you are making.
Thank you for joining the fight against COVID-19 and ensuring that the MHS
is not only supporting the DoD’s response to the pandemic, but also
supporting the whole-of-government effort to defeat the pandemic.

Every year at this time, cities and towns across the Nation gather to
remember the contributions and bravery of generations of men and women who
have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. But this year will be
different. Observances for the holiday will not look like years past because
of the pandemic, and many of the traditional Memorial Day parades and events
we are accustomed to will not proceed. While we may not be able to gather in
person this year, that doesn’t mean we cannot pay our respects to our fallen
heroes. This Memorial Day, I encourage you to pursue other ways to honor the
brave men and women who sacrificed their lives to ensure our safety and
freedom.

Please stay safe and healthy!

Tom

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