Capt. Eduardo Mendez, public health nurse and officer-in-charge of the Fort Hood COVID-19 Vaccination Center, and Lt. Col. Raymond Jaklitsch, deputy commander of the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center's health readiness, discuss the road ahead a taping session of Fort Hood's Great Big Podcast in the podcast studio at Fort Hood, Texas, May 11. The podcast, titled "COVID-19: Pivoting to a 'New Normal,'" can be found at https://www.buzzsprout.com/761486/8506680. (Photo Credit: Brandy Cruz, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT HOOD, Texas - Health care officials at the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center here are seeing the light at the end of the COVID tunnel, as a large number of people have now been vaccinated, and CRDAMC prepares for the future.

“To see the leadership – from the hospital commander, from the Fort Hood command team – and how everyone worked together to protect the force and did what’s best, was amazing,” Lt. Col. Raymond Jaklitsch, deputy commander for health readiness, said during the May 13 episode of Fort Hood's Great Big Podcast.

The podcast, titled "COVID-19: Pivoting to a 'New Normal,'" can be found at https://www.buzzsprout.com/761486/8506680.

Jaklitsch said that one of the biggest changes people will see when they come to CRDAMC is the lack of COVID screening at the front entrance. He explained that the screening will be conducted at the individual clinics instead. All the entrances have reopened, instead of filtering everyone through the front entrance, including the entrances from the parking garages.

Another major change is the drawdown of the respiratory drive-thru, which is where people could go to receive a COVID test. The drive-thru will close on May 21, so people needing a COVID test will need to call and make an appointment with their clinic.

“Last year, at the peak, we had close to a thousand people coming through the RDT in one day,” Jaklitsch explained. “Yesterday, we had eight people come through, so there’s a significant difference in the amount of people coming through for testing.”

He said those coming through now may not necessarily need a test because of symptoms, but could need a negative test before a medical procedure. Test results are usually given to the patient within 24 hours afterward.

Capt. Eduardo Mendez, a public health nurse and the officer-in-charge of the COVID-19 Vaccination Center at Abrams Physical Fitness Center, is happy to see how far they have come since they began dispensing the vaccines in December. By Jan. 15, CRDAMC had its first fully vaccinated patients. Since then, he said they have only admitted one person into the intensive care unit because of COVID.

“I think we have accomplished the mission we set out to do, which was to offer it (the vaccine) to our community,” Mendez added.

He said, even when it was cold outside, people were lined up for the vaccine, which is how he knew people wanted to protect themselves. He said they have now moved onto an appointment-based system. While the demand is still there, it has definitely decreased.

CRDAMC is hosting a Facebook Town Hall at 10 a.m., May 14, at which Col. Richard Malish, CRDAMC commander, will discuss more about how the hospital is moving forward. Watch the town hall at www.facebook.com/CRDAMC.

For those who are still on the fence about receiving the vaccine, Mendez encourages people to come by Abrams Physical Fitness Center and ask questions, adding they can also call their primary care manager and ask questions about the vaccine.

“We’re there for you,” Mendez added, “and we’d be more than happy to take care of you.”

Vaccine appointments for Tricare beneficiaries in the Fort Hood area can be made by calling (254) 288-8888 or online at www.tricareonline.com.