Defense Media Network

U.S. Army Working on COVID-19 Vaccine and Test Kit Validation

Brigadier General Michael J. Talley, the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC) and Fort Detrick, Maryland, struck a measured tone during a virtual town hall meeting on March 16 designed to provide the Fort Detrick community with COVID-19 response updates.

“Your health and safety remains our top priority,” said Talley during the meeting, which featured a variety of Command, Garrison, and county officials. “I am committed to doing everything to keep you healthy, and to keep us mission ready.”

To those ends, Talley noted the variety of current USAMRDC research efforts focused on developing a solution to the COVID-19 outbreak. Following receipt of COVID-19 virus samples earlier this month, scientists at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) began work on both developing a vaccine for the virus and, also, developing methods for validating COVID-19 testing kits. Further, USAMRIID leadership has been installed as part of a virus taskforce charged with providing updates to senior Army leadership on a daily basis.

“We have a role,” said Col. Darrin Cox, USAMRIID Commander, during the town hall, “and our role right now is fitting into the larger government response.”

That kind of expansive, “whole of government” approach was a key tenet of the meeting, which additionally touched on concepts of so-called “social distancing” and frequent, vigorous handwashing as matters of best practice moving forward. Additionally, members of leadership of both the Command and Garrison maintained their commitment to personal health and, if need be, a liberal telework policy for all staff as a preventive measure.

“This is not the time to power through a possible cold to support the mission,” said Fort Detrick Garrison Commander Col. Dexter Nunnally, who further noted that, as of March 16, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Fort Detrick community.

With regards to the larger community overall, meeting panelist Dr. Manny Casiano of Frederick Health Hospital (FHH) stated it was likely that drive-through virus testing facilities would be open on FHH premises by the end of this week.

“We’ve got the resources, and we’re all going to get through this,” said Casiano, noting that immediate treatment for the common flu virus – including contacting your healthcare provider and entering into self-quarantine – is the same as current treatment recommendations for COVD-19.

Before closing, Talley noted the anticipated peak for COVID-19 cases in the U.S. would likely occur in 10-14 days, a statement intended to provide context and perspective to the growing concern.

Said Talley, “We will continue to work with local, state, and federal officials to keep our personnel safe and healthy.”