The National Guard has been activated in six states, with around 400 personnel being mobilized to fight the coronavirus from China.
The news was issued prior to the Pentagon, which has declared domestic travel restrictions, which goes into effect Monday, for all military and civilian personnel and dependents assigned to DOD installations, facilities and surrounding areas within the United States, according to a memo issued yesterday.
The governors of Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, New York, Rhode Island and Washington have all activated components of their Army and Air National Guard. Guardsmen in California and Maryland are also expected to join their states’ efforts today.
“The National Guard is fully involved at the local, state, and federal level in the planning and execution of the nation’s response to COVID-19,” a National Guard Bureau spokesperson said in the release. “In times of emergency, the National Guard Bureau serves as a federal coordinating agency should a state require assistance from the National Guard of another state.”
“At the national level, Guard members are training personnel on COVID-19 response, identifying and preparing National Guard facilities for use as isolation housing, and compiling state medical supply inventories,” the release continued. “National Guard personnel will provide assistance to the states that include logistical support, disinfection/cleaning, activate/conduct transportation of medical personnel, call center support, and meal delivery.”
While the number currently stands at under 500, the National Guard Bureau said those numbers “will rapidly change,” as the agency “expect[s] that number to approach 1,000” by the end of the day.
Currently, 33 states have declared states of emergencies to mobilize greater resources and streamline responses to the new coronavirus outbreak, the bureau noted.
Individual state responses
On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order to grant greater authorities to state officials.
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Three Guardsmen are currently providing support at the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee, Florida, and on Sunday, an additional 20 service members will be activated to operate the State Logistics Readiness Center, according to an official with the Florida Army National Guard.
I have issued an Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency to establish a unified command structure and direct funds as necessary in response to #COVID19.
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) March 9, 2020
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo also signed an emergency declaration on Monday, authorizing Maj. Gen. Christopher P. Callahan, the state’s adjutant general, to order the Rhode Island National Guard to active duty status.
“I want every tool at my disposal in order to be able to protect Rhode Island,” Raimondo said at a Monday press conference, as reported by NBC 10 Boston.
Around ten Guardsmen are currently supporting state health officials in Rhode Island, where five cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, as of Thursday, with 29 pending test results.
In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a Proclamation of Disaster Emergency on Monday to streamline response and assistance procedures. Some personnel of the Iowa National Guard have been activated under State Active Duty status to assist in the state’s joint Emergency Operations Center, a state official said.
Currently, the National Guard’s presence constitutes a “very small footprint,” serving primarily as liaisons for logistics and planning, the official added.
As of Thursday, Iowa has 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 29 cases pending and 128 people being monitored, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. Most of the cases stem from travel, including a cruise in Egypt, the governor’s office said.
In Louisiana, Guardsmen are “providing assistance for COVID-19 planning at the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness,” according to the release.
On March 5, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency, mobilizing a statewide response to the outbreak. The state currently has confirmed 17 cases of COVID-19, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
Components of the Maryland National Guard have been activated by the governor, but their role is “to be determined” at this time, according to the National Guard Bureau.
Today I convened a call with county leaders to provide updates and guidance on the statewide response to COVID-19. We are going to continue working closely with all levels of government as we take a comprehensive, collaborative approach to this public health emergency. pic.twitter.com/HTq0OFXNCH
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) March 13, 2020
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is activating personnel, utilizing a 10-person “medical augmentation team” from the 144th Fighter Wing of the California Air National Guard “to provide emergency pre-hospital stabilization response for up to 24 patients per 24-hour operations,” the release stated.
The state has 174 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with an additional 11,000 people “self-monitoring,” according to the California Department of Public Health.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who issued an emergency proclamation on Feb. 29, has also activated personnel from the Washington National Guard. These Guardsmen “are supporting planning efforts within the Washington State Emergency Management Division for up to 45 days,” according to the release.
There are currently 31 cases of COVID-19 in the state, according to state health officials.
The developments in these states follow New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision earlier this week to activate Guardsmen to assist in cleaning and food deliveries and Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced’s decision on Thursday to activate the Puerto Rico National Guard to screen passengers at the island’s airport and cruise ship ports.
Today we opened the State’s first drive-through #COVID19 mobile testing center in New Rochelle.
The Mobile Testing Center has 6 lanes and can test up to 200 ppl today and up to 500 ppl/day in the coming days.
It is not only faster and easier, it’s also smarter and safer. pic.twitter.com/mW2JeRch84
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) March 13, 2020
The New York National Guard has responded to New Rochelle, New York, where a “cluster” of COVID-19 cases has been identified.
New York now has 378 Guardsmen “assisting with disinfecting and cleaning of common public spaces…and providing transportation support for nurses and health care providers,” the release said.
The Department of Defense will place restrictions on all domestic travel, including permanent change of station moves and temporary duty assignments, amid concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, according to a memo released Friday.
The guidance is expected to be in effect through May 11, according to the DOD.
“These restrictions are necessary to preserve force readiness, limit the continuing spread of the virus, and preserve the health and welfare of Service members, DOD civilian employees, their families, and the local communities in which we live,” Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist said in the memo.
The restrictions will also pause civilian hiring at DOD installations and components for individuals outside the local commuting area of vacant positions.
Exceptions to the ban may be granted on a case-by-case basis with command approval, the memo stated, for issues such as mission-essential travel or humanitarian reasons.
Service members are authorized local leave only in accordance with service, according to a DOD email announcing the restrictions.
The announcement comes several hours after President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency, hoping to free up as much as $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the outbreak.
“Through a very collective action and shared sacrifice, national determination, we will overcome the threat of the virus,” Trump said during a press conference at the White House on Friday.
On Wednesday, the DOD implemented broad international travel restrictions to China, Italy, Iran and South Korea — all of which are under Travel Health Notice Level 3 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The order also prohibits travel to countries under a level 2 CDC travel advisory, which includes Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom and Bahrain, for anything other than mission-essential travel.
That same day, Trump also restricted entry to the U.S. to select individuals from several European countries.
During a briefing Thursday at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced six American service members and seven military dependents were infected with coronavirus. However, three additional service members and a government contractor also tested positive for the virus later that evening.
“The Department will continue to issue additional guidance with regard to the COVID-19 as conditions warrant,” the DOD said in its email Friday. “Our goal is to remain ahead of the virus spread so our military force remains effective and ready.”