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Minnesota man provides care during coronavirus quarantine

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Chad Schmitz, pictured in 2017 while responding to Hurricane Maria, is a member of the National Disaster Medical System's Disaster Medical Assistance Team. Schmitz, of Stewartville, Minn., has been a part of DMAT since 2012. (Contributed photo)
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STEWARTVILLE, Minn. — Chad Schmitz can be ready to leave home in less than a hour. His years with the Disaster Medical Assistance Team has him prepared to go wherever and whenever he is called to help those in need.

Earlier this month, Schmitz got the call to help with medical care at a quarantine in Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif. Two planes transporting evacuees from Wuhan, China, were headed to the Air Force base, and those approximately 230 passengers would need to be under quarantine to monitor for signs of coronavirus.

"It's very rewarding for me knowing that we're able to go help others in need," Schmitz said.

Schmitz, of Stewartville, has been involved with the Disaster Medical Assistance Team, part of the National Disaster Medical System, since 2012. During his tenure with the team, he has been deployed to hurricanes Sandy, Maria and Harvey as well as others in Florida.

Responding to the quarantine was different from past deployments, Schmitz said. When you respond to a hurricane, you can see the destruction. He said that none of the approximately 200 people his team was responsible for monitoring were found to have the virus.

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National Disaster Medical System personnel as well as the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps were onsite and worked in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure that those returning were continuously monitored during the 14-day quarantine.

In the first days of caring for those housed at the base, Schmitz said they seemed a little deflated.

"As the couple weeks progressed, they were very welcoming, very happy to be back in the U.S. and to be away from that virus," Schmitz said.

In addition to monitoring for signs of possible infection — increased temperature, shortness of breath and coughing — Schmitz and his colleagues also provided daily medical care to those in quarantine. Members of the team wore protective equipment to keep themselves healthy as well. Upon returning from their service, the DMAT members also monitored themselves for the same symptoms.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services deployed 160 personnel — including physicians, nurses, paramedics, IT specialists, a public affairs specialist, and experienced command and control staff — to Travis Air Force Base.

A total of 628 HHS personnel have been deployed to five military bases housing evacuees returning on one of the five Department of Defense chartered flights from Wuhan. These bases include Travis AFB; March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif.; Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego, Calif.; Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas; and Camp Ashland Army National Guard Base near Omaha, Neb.

When not traveling the country providing emergency medical services, Schmitz works as operations manager for Mayo Clinic ambulance in Owatonna and Mankato. He has been a paramedic for 15 years.

Paul Drucker, senior director with Mayo Clinic Ambulance, said that as an employer he appreciates Schmitz's commitment and is proud of him.

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