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As the U.S. pushes to ramp up coronavirus testing, the Air Force has flown roughly a million testing swabs to the United States from overseas, and more missions are expected, Air Mobility Command said Friday.
Earlier this week, AMC loaded 13 pallets containing 500,000 COVID-19 testing swabs onto a C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft at Aviano Air Base in Italy.
The swabs were delivered to a location in Memphis, Tennessee, where they were turned over to FedEx for distribution.
The testing swabs are being delivered in support of ongoing Department of Health and Human Services operations to stem the spread of the coronavirus which first appeared in China but has since spread around the world.
The U.S. has so far reported more than 16,000 cases and over 200 deaths.
Following the first shipment, AMC made another delivery of around 500,000 coronavirus testing swabs on Thursday. The command said that "additional missions are projected to meet DHHS requirements."
"Through its Active, Reserve, and Air National Guard components, Air Mobility Command stands ready to do everything possible to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and ensure we continue executing rapid global mobility operations," AMC said in a statement.
Air Mobility Command said that crews, who were "aware their efforts were directly impacting American lives," rushed to get the supplies to the US and managed to do so two to three days earlier than planned.
The swabs that are being delivered to the U.S. from Italy are an important part of the testing process.
"The swabs are sent out to the different medical facilities. They're used to test patients, and then they go to a lab that has the right equipment to analyze the swabs and see if there's coronavirus on a swab or not," Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs, the Joint Staff surgeon, said Wednesday.
While there are companies in the U.S. producing swabs, testing swabs are also being purchased from overseas to increase capability. Those flown in by AMC were produced by the Italian company Copan Diagnostics.
"Italian ingenuity is helping to save lives around the world," AMC said in a statement. "As the U.S. continues to buy these swabs, AMC is honored to help transport our Italian partner's generous support to help the American people.
Italy, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus, has more than 47,000 cases and even more deaths than China, which lost more than 3,200 people to the outbreak.
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