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Air Force evacuates COVID-19 patient with onboard isolation unit

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Air Force evacuates COVID-19 patient with onboard isolation unit
Travis Air Base, Calif., conducted its first use of a U.S. Air Force Transport Isolation System to deliver a COVID-19 patient from the Indo-Pacific region. Photo by Tech Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr./U.S. Air Force

July 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force announced Monday that it for the first time used a specially-designed isolation chamber to transport a COVID-19 patient from the Indo-Pacific region to the United States for treatment.

It was the first use by the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command of the new Transport Isolation System, though it is the 18th use of the system since it's rollout in April.

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The chamber, which can be loaded onto a plane, was used to transport a service member who tested positive for the COVID-19 virus from the Indo-Pacific region to Travis Air Base, Calif. The airman's name or location were not given.

The airlift was conducted by the 775th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight, using a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from the 21st Airlift Squadron.

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The Transport Isolation System is essentially a container that sits on a specialized pallet and can be loaded onto C-130H,C-130J, and C-17 cargo aircraft, according to the Air Force.

The system features one antechamber module and two isolation modules.

The device includes watertight enclosures and high-efficiency particulate air [HEPA] filtration systems to contain both airborne and non-airborne pathogens, as well as sufficient space for medical crew members safely decontaminate and remove personal protective equipment before exiting.

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The containers are stackable, and a C-17 can carry two.

Travis Air Base is one of three staging areas useable for the specialized evacuation missions. Its West Coast location and fleet of 13 C-17s make it an involved entity in repatriating service members with COVID-19 symptoms, officials said.

"When we say rapid global mobility ... this is how we project American air power," said Col. Corey Simmons, commander of the 60th Air Mobility Wing.

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"'Team Travis' capabilities and the seamless partnership with multiple organizations across the Air Force enabled us to promptly help those in need throughout the Indo-Pacific region during this challenging, global pandemic," Simmons said.

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