Federal COVID-19 response team deployed to Hampton Roads

Investigative

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A federal response team was deployed to Hampton Roads this week to work with public health officials as the region battles the coronavirus pandemic.

The COVID-19 Response Assistance Field Team — CRAFT — was deployed to Hampton Roads on Tuesday according to Erin Sutton, deputy emergency services coordinator for Virginia Beach.

It is composed of federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Disease Control, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and it is working locally with several agencies, including the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM).

“Because Hampton Roads is considered substantial or a hot spot, the federal government deploys this team and accesses what we are doing in try to get to the root cause,” Sutton told City Council. “They will be assisting local leaders to design of a plan of action.”

Virtual visits from CRAFT team members have started to occur with different city departments, such as police and emergency management, Sutton explained.

Sources told 10 On Your Side that CRAFT spent some time at the Chesapeake Public Safety Operations Center on Wednesday.

A final report will be issued to all the localities and it is believed the plan will also be used to advise the governor.

In a brief statement, Gov. Ralph Northam’s office said that the team is “working with state and local health officials to gather information and explore opportunities for increased federal support for our ongoing response, including the areas of PPE, testing and tracing.”

10 On Your Side has reached out to HHS for more information, but the agency has not responded to two media requests as of publication. 10 On Your Side also reached out to VDEM, FEMA, VDH, and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control for more information about CRAFT. VDEM and VDH both directed 10 On Your Side’s questions to FEMA. FEMA and the CDC directed 10 On Your Side to the HHS for more information.

We discovered that CRAFT has been deployed to other areas of the country, including Grand Rapids, Mich. and Huntsville, Ala.

CRAFT’s deployment to Hampton Roads comes as the region grapples with a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases.

The Hampton Roads COVID-19 Impact Planning Hub tracks daily COVID-19 cases and the seven-day moving average of cases in the region. Their data shows that in May and June, the seven-day moving average of COVID-19 cases in Hampton Roads was between the low-40s and mid-70s. That average increased to 89 on June 26 and has continued to climb. As of July 22, the seven-day moving average in Hampton Roads was 453.3 cases.


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