As Italy battles tens of thousands of coronavirus cases and hundreds of resulting deaths, an 86th Airlift Wing C-130J Super Hercules out of Ramstein Air Base, Germany transported an En-Route Patient Staging System (ERPSS) to Aviano Air Base, Italy for delivery to the Italian Ministry of Defense, according to a media release.

This mobile, or fixed system, provides 10 patient holding/staging beds and can support a maximum throughput of 40 patients in a 24-hour period, according to the release.

"The COVID-19 pandemic requires that we work with our Allies and partners to meet the challenges together," said Gen Jeff Harrigian, commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, in the release. "This effort demonstrates our mutual support as we team together in response to this public health crisis.”

Harrigian said that “we are working closely with our Italian friends, the Department of State and U.S. European Command to ensure we provide the right equipment in a safe and timely manner. It's our privilege to support the Italian response, and our continued commitment reflects the values of the American people to provide assistance whenever and wherever it is needed."

The delivery comes as the Italian government announced Sunday that the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic had increased by 651 to 5,476, a 13.5 percent rise, according to the Washington Post.

The new daily figures were a drop from Saturday’s increase, when officials announced 793 had died, the Post reported.

The total number of cases in Italy increased 10.4 percent to 59,138. The northern Lombardy region remained the worst hit with 3,456 deaths and 27,206 cases, according to data released by Italy’s Civil Protection Agency.

The number of new cases — the lowest increase as a percentage since the outbreak began — and the drop in new deaths from Saturday led to cautious optimism from Italian officials that the rate of new infections was slowing, according to the Post.

“I hope and we all hope that these figures can be borne out in the coming days. But do not let your guard down,” Italian Civil Protection Chief Angelo Borrelli told reporters, according to Agence France-Presse.

Italy has the second-highest number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus after China, the outbreak’s epicenter. Last week, it overtook China with the highest death toll.

Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.

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