Military deploying medical personnel as Texas sees spike in coronavirus patients

Pedestrians wearing protective mask walk down a sidewalk in Austin, Texas, U.S., on Thursday, June 25, 2020. Texas reported a record 5,489 new cases, bringing the total to 120,370, according to the state health department. That represented a 4.8% increase, well above the 3.7% seven-day average. Photographer: Sergio Flores/Bloomberg via Getty Images (Sergio Flores, © 2020 Bloomberg Finance LP)

(CNN) – The US military announced Monday it is sending approximately 50 medical and support personnel to the San Antonio area at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a sign of potential concern that civilian medical personnel could be overwhelmed by the rise in coronavirus cases in Texas.

The personnel, from the 627th Hospital Center in Carson, Colorado, will "provide medical assistance by embedding in medical care facilities in the San Antonio, Texas area," according to a statement from the US Northern Command, which oversees US military operations in North America.

"The medical personnel include emergency room and critical care nurses, respiratory specialists and support personnel," the statement continued.

The deployment marks a return to military efforts to directly combat the worsening pandemic, a move previously associated with dire hot spots of the virus. In April, the military dispatched hundreds of medical personnel to embed in hospitals primarily in the New York City area -- previously one of areas hit hardest by the pandemic -- as well as elsewhere.

Texas has seen over 194,900 cases and 2,600 deaths from the virus, making it one of the leaders among the 32 states reporting higher rates of new cases this week compared to the last, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The state is expected to see nearly 2,000 new hospitalizations per day by mid-July, according to forecasts published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The military isn't alone in taking bolder steps to address the state's outbreak. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, issued an executive order Thursday requiring masks to be worn in public spaces in counties with 20 or more Covid-19 cases. He also gave mayors and judges a mandate to restrict gatherings of 10 or more people. And hospitals in at least two Texas counties were at full capacity heading into the Fourth of July holiday weekend, with county judges urging residents to shelter in place.

The personnel sent to Texas comprise a smaller deployment than those sent to New York earlier this year. US Northern Command said in early April that it was "deploying a combined total of 1,000 Air Force and Navy medical providers to the New York City area."

Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN at the time that “the bulk of them” would go to the Javits Convention Center, which was converted into a makeshift field hospital as part of its coronavirus response. They also planned to “deploy a few hundred of them to 11 New York City hospitals that are also seeing a deficiency when it comes to medical staff,” Esper added.