While others were celebrating Independence Day in a more traditional fashion, members of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Disaster Assessment and Recovery Team, DAR, were demonstrating their patriotism by helping front-line workers battling COVID-19.
DAR and other responders with AgriLife Extension received a request on July 3 to help deliver Remdesivir and ventilators to resource staging areas across the state for quicker front-line access to these supplies. They worked to organize and distribute both the medicine and ventilators on extremely short notice and within a tight deadline.
For more than three months, DAR responders have been deployed throughout Texas to help ensure urgently needed personal protective equipment and medical supplies get to those on the front lines of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our network of agents across Texas continues to fully support the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Department of State Health Services in the fight against COVID-19,” said Jeff Hyde, Ph.D., director of AgriLife Extension. “Our agency is uniquely positioned with a presence throughout Texas to continue to support local communities’ needs until the COVID-19 battle is won.”
Monty Dozier, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension program director for disaster assessment and recovery, said for decades AgriLife Extension has helped Texans prepare for and recover from disasters or emergencies affecting the state, including floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and drought.
“Our AgriLife Extension network is designed to respond to emergencies, and this pandemic is no different,” Dozier said. “Our mission is to provide logistical support and supplies to communities affected by emergencies. That doesn’t change whether it’s helping farmers and ranchers or nurses and doctors. The emergency may change, but our overall mission remains the same.”
DAR agents assisting in COVID-19 efforts statewide
About 13 DAR agents are currently in place at staging areas in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Corpus Christi, Lubbock and Tyler. The staging areas were established by the Texas Division of Emergency Management and Texas Department of State Health Services with the goal of getting medical supplies and personal protective equipment into the hands of the people who need it the most in the fight against COVID-19.
“During the Fourth of July weekend, Disaster Assessment and Recovery team members responded to a state request to deliver Remdesivir to 157 hospitals in 45 counties,” Dozier said. “Seventy-six of these deliveries were made by DAR agents to health care providers.”
Additionally, DAR members delivered 230 ventilators to resource staging areas across the state for distribution to hospitals as part of the team’s Pony Express effort.
“The Pony Express part of supply fulfillment is one where if a healthcare facility or front-line operation makes a request for medical equipment or supplies, we do our best to make sure the order is fulfilled quickly,” he said.
Team members also assisted with the handling of authorizations to initiate contact tracing through their respective staging areas.
Dozier also noted AgriLife Extension agents and other agency personnel were trained on COVID-19 federal relief funding available to Texas communities affected by the pandemic. They have been helping local officials better understand how to qualify for and obtain federal relief funds.
“They are helping these local government representatives and serving as a safety net to help ensure eligible communities are aware of what funding is available, any eligibility requirements for that funding and how to apply for that funding,” he said.
AgriLife Extension assistance will continue
Also, since April responders from AgriLife Extension have been assisting with the inventory, packaging, repackaging and distribution of supplies at designated staging areas, said Rachel Bauer, AgriLife Extension program specialist in College Station and the agency’s lead liaison to the Texas State Operations Center of the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
Among the items they have been tasked with helping inventory and distribute include personal protective equipment, such as gloves, gowns, face masks and face shields, as well as medical supplies.
“We have provided and will continue to provide additional AgriLife Extension people and resources as needed to support state emergency management and health agency efforts until efforts to defeat COVID-19 are completed,” Bauer said.
She noted AgriLife Extension personnel are also in the process of conveying information to counties throughout the state on the Comfort Food Care Package program recently announced by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The goal of that program is to provide meals for at-risk youth and families in communities across Texas.
The COVID-19: A hub of Extension resources website has a variety of AgriLife Extension materials related to the current COVID-19 situation. These include resources on coronavirus prevention, emergency preparedness, health and wellness, food and nutrition, at-home parenting and child activities, self-reliance practices and agriculture-related issues.