Esteemed Navy Medicine Colleagues,
It is hard to believe, but June marks six months since we first detected COVID-19 in the United States. During this time, our Navy and our Nation have changed in ways that would hardly seem recognizable at the end of 2019. One thing that has remained consistent is that Navy Medicine has stood on the front lines of this fight, bringing Medical Power to our Navy and Marine Corps team.
This is now the new normal and we must learn to sail, fight, and win in this environment. Throughout the early rounds of this battle, Navy Medicine’s kinetic responses were easily visible on every TV and made every headline. Whether it was the sight of two Hospital ships sailing into harm’s way to respond to our country’s needs, or the story of our Expeditionary Medical Facilities rapidly deploying to support our fellow citizens in need, Navy Medicine met the enemy head on. Now, we must shift from this initial response phase to one that builds the strength and resilience of our force so they can operate and succeed this new environment.
Using rapid cycle feedback and continuous learning, we are taking the lessons learned of this initial phase and leveraging them to shape our future strategy. A real life example of this is seen with our work with COVID Convalescent Plasma (CCP). Two weeks ago, the DOD announced the use of the FDA-approved CCP as an investigative treatment against COVID-19. CCP is collected from the blood of individuals whose immune systems have developed antibodies against COVID. Within hours of the newly established policy, we rapidly collected CCP from volunteers aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71); and over the course of three days, the blood bank/donor center at USNH Guam had collected more than 200 life-saving plasma units. This was the first of many donations as crew from the USS Kidd (DDG-100) also contributed plasma. Navy Medicine will continue to be at the forefront of this effort to gather CCP from Sailors and Marines who have recovered from this disease, and we will use it to treat those who become seriously ill.
Over the last six weeks, TR has also been the focus of a public health outbreak investigation conducted by Navy Marine Corps Public Health Center in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This investigation was conducted with volunteer crewmembers who were asked to complete a short survey and provide two specimens for laboratory testing (voluntary blood and nasal swab samples). This is the first CDC published report on this specific demographic of young adults and one of the key findings was that loss of taste or smell was the main symptom most associated with the COVID-19 infection. This joint investigation broadens our understanding of this disease and will inform future testing and mitigation strategies to ensure the readiness of our fleet and force. I recommend you take the opportunity to review the published findings at www.cdc.gov/mmwr.
As our knowledge about the coronavirus continues to expand, we remain steadfast in our commitment to protect the health of our force based on the best available scientific evidence. This is why we exist and it remains our solemn obligation to care for and support America’s Service members and their families. Despite the complexity of this adversary, because of your incredible dedication and unwavering support, we will continue to deliver …Medical Power in Support of Naval Superiority.
With my continued respect and admiration,
Bruce L. Gillingham, MD, CPE, FAOA
RADM, MC, USN
Surgeon General, U.S. Navy
Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery