The latest Department of Defense (DoD) news, updates and press releases regarding coronavirus, or COVID-19.
For guidance specific to the Pentagon Reservation and DOD offices and facilities in the National Capital Region, visit the WHS COVID-19 Guidance page.
For guidance specific to DODEA schools, please go to the DODEA COVID-19 page.
Nearly 10,000 Guardsmen Called Up for COVID-19 Response
Nearly 10,000 National Guardsmen called up across the United States, with more expected soon, are performing a variety of missions in response to COVID-19 pandemic response efforts.
Some are even federally funded, though they remain under the control of their respective state governors, but none of those Guardsmen are involved in law or quarantine enforcement, the chief of the National Guard Bureau said.
“There’s no discussion, … there’s no plan to use the National Guard in Title 32 or state active duty status or in any other status to do quarantine [enforcement] or enforce shelter-in-place operations,” Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel said during a telephone news conference today.
Though it’s possible the National Guard could be used in such a capacity if governors ask the Guard to do so, the general said, that has not happened.
“Once again, [there is] no plan to use the National Guard in any kind of large-scale lockdown capacity of the United States of America,” Lengyel told reporters.
Rather, he said, guardsmen who have been called up are providing transportation, command and control functions, engineering, and planning and logistics throughout the country. In 12 states, he added, Guard members are also either directly administering tests or supporting medical professionals in their efforts. In Arizona, he said, some Guard members are even helping to keep the supply chain afloat for their local communities.
“They’ve got trucks showing up at stores [with] nobody to unload the trucks,” he said. “In some cases, they’re using National Guard members to … assist, if you will, that supply chain, to keep products available to people in the community.”
Lengyel said the federal government is helping out by providing funding to the National Guard at some locations in the United States.
“The president recently approved 100% federal funding for the National Guard in some of the hardest hit states: Washington, New York and California,” he said. That funding, he said, doesn’t mean those Guardsmen are now under federal control. Those Guardsmen remain in support of their governor.
“[The president] left control of the National Guard to the governors and the adjutant generals, who are the people who know best how to apply these resources and people to fix problems in their states,” Lengyel said.
The general said that as the number of Guardsmen called up increases by as many as 1,000 a day, the military and civilian experience inherent in the National Guard will prove that those citizen soldiers and airmen are ideal candidates to assist in combating COVID-19.
“Our combined combat and civilian-acquired skills helps to create a blueprint for an ideal military component capable of addressing a myriad of challenges presented by this COVID-19 response,” he said. “If you need us to drive trucks, fly planes, be mechanics, or plan large response efforts, the National Guard is able to adapt to whatever mission the governor may need us to.”
Navy Officials Announce 3 COVID-19 Cases Aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt
March 24, 2020
Three sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt underway in the Pacific Ocean were diagnosed with COVID-19 and were evacuated from the ship, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas B. Modly said.
“We’ve identified all the folks they’ve had contact with, and we’re quarantining them as well,” Modly said at a Pentagon news conference today, where he appeared with Navy Adm. Michael Gilday, the chief of naval operations. “This is an example of how we are able to keep our ships deployed at seas and underway, even with active COVID-19 cases. Our force remains on watch throughout the world [during] this crisis, and they’re continuing to execute their primary mission under the National Defense Strategy.”
Navy ships are sailing, Navy planes are flying, and training is still happening to safeguard U.S. national interests and those of the nation’s allies and partners around the world, Modly said.
In the meantime, the hospital ship USNS Mercy deployed 1,128 military personnel and civilians yesterday to Los Angeles in support of the nation’s COVID-19 efforts, providing a spectrum of medical care, including critical and urgent care for adults, he said. The Mercy was off the coast of California today and should be in Los Angeles in the next couple of days, he added.
Another hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, is preparing to do the same mission for the city of New York, Modly said, noting that both ships will operate under the operational control of the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Northern Command. “We will coordinate closely with state and local public health authorities to ensure the well-being of our personnel and the local population,” he said.
The ships will serve as referral hospitals for dockside patients not infected with COVID-19, Modly emphasized. Rather, he said, they will handle the overflow of acute trauma cases and other urgent needs, and they will not handle pediatrics or OB/Gyn cases. “This will allow our shore-based hospitals to focus their medical care and resources on patients with COVID-19,” the acting secretary told reporters.
This is a perfect example of how the Navy and Marine Corps can respond to the needs of the American people wherever and whenever they’re needed, Modly said. “The Navy and Marine Corps front lines are constantly being redrawn, and we’re realizing today that unpredictability is with us,” he added. “And that’s why we need to be ready at all times to adjust and adapt to any emerging threat, even one too small to be seen by the human eye.”
Modly said he wrote to the force recently to urge sailors and Marines to always be ready, not just as an organization, but also as individuals, to exhibit the personal qualities of speed, transparency, adaptability, collaboration, humility, trust and “a healthy dose of skepticism as we address these challenges.”
“And I can say every one of these people has exhibited these qualities in getting the Mercy and Comfort prepared for these missions, as well as the many other ways our force is supporting the whole-of-government response to this pandemic,” he said.
Military families are at the top of his mind daily, Modly said, and the Navy is committed to doing everything it can for their well-being while minimizing the impact on their daily lives as much as possible.
“I’m confident the agility of the Navy and Marine Corps team will help to save lives and protect this nation as it always has, and always will,” Modly said.
Gilday said that overall, the Navy has 86 COVID-19 cases: 57 active-duty service members, 13 Navy civilian employees, 11 Navy family members and five contractors.
About one-third of Navy personnel is at sea, aboard fewer than 100 Navy ships out of a fleet of about 300, the chief of naval operations said.
The Roosevelt was in port about 15 days ago, Gilday said, but it would be difficult to tie the three active cases to one particular port visit.
“We took great precautions when the crew came back from that shore visit, and did enhanced medical screenings of the crew,” he said. “We are moving very quickly to isolate those cases. [We] … understand who they came in contact with over the recent days and weeks, so we’ve begun to look inside the ship and at how we can isolate and contain as best we can. We’re taking this day by day.”
DOD’s Military OneSource, Family Readiness, Spouse Programs Available During COVID-19
March 24, 2020
The Department of Defense is closely monitoring the impacts of the coronavirus disease outbreak on service members, their families and survivors. Resources and services offered through Military OneSource, the Military and Family Life Counseling program, and the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program will continue to serve the military community.
“We are working hard to provide timely and accurate updates and helpful resources for our service members and their families,” said Kim Joiner, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy. “Our families can feel confident about finding official information and guidance on our websites and social media platforms. While we have made necessary changes in response to this pandemic, one thing remains the same – our commitment to serving our military community.”
- A dedicated section is available on Military OneSource to keep service members and their families informed about the impacts of COVID-19 on the military community.
- Beginning March 24, Military OneSource will offer non-medical counseling video sessions for children and youth who may feel overwhelmed by the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Military OneSource will be live on Facebook Monday through Friday at noon Eastern Time to highlight available resources. All videos will be available for on-demand viewing.
What’s the Same
- Military OneSource is available 24/7/365 to help service members and their families with stress management and challenges related to COVID-19, as well as provide non-medical counseling and support. Call 800-342-9647 or connect through live chat. OCONUS? Click here for calling options.
- Military OneSource specialty consultations, such as relationship support, new MilParent support, health and wellness coaching and more
- Financial counseling and MilTax services
- Language services, including real-time interpretation and translation services
- Access to Resilience Tools, including CoachHub, Moodhacker and Love Every Day
- Access to the MWR Digital Library including many education and entertainment resources
- SECO career coaches remain available. Call 800-342-9647 or connect through live chat to schedule an appointment. OCONUS? Click here for calling options.
- Online SECO tools and resources remain available including My Individual Career Plan, or MyICP, the Research Occupations Tool, the Scholarship Finder, the College Scorecard Tool, MySECO Resume Builder, and more.
- SECO online events and webinars are still active, including the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) Partner Connect discussion and the Virtual Military Spouse Symposium.
- Non-medical Counseling: While Military OneSource continues to offer non-medical counseling by telephone (1-800-342-9647) and online via secure chat and video, in-person counseling may be affected or unavailable depending on state and local policies. We encourage families to check with their local providers to confirm.
Military OneSource is a DOD-funded program that is both a call center and website that provides comprehensive information, support, and resources on every aspect of military life. Service members and the immediate family of active duty, National Guard and reserve (regardless of activation status), survivors and DOD expeditionary civilians are eligible for Military OneSource. Veterans and their immediate family members are eligible for Military OneSource up to 365 days post-separation or retirement. All services are available at no cost.
Esper Lists DOD’s Top Priorities During COVID-19 Pandemic
March 14, 2020
Protecting the Defense Department’s people, maintaining military readiness and supporting the whole-of-government interagency response are DOD’s top three priorities amid the coronavirus pandemic, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said.
Esper, joined by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army Gen. Mark A. Milley and Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Ramón ”CZ” Colón-López, conducted a virtual town hall meeting today to answer questions about DOD’s coronavirus response.
”I’ve made protecting our people our top priority,” Esper said, referring to service members, DOD’s civilian employees and contractors, and their families.
Meanwhile, the secretary said, maintaining mission readiness is important so DOD can be ready to fight and win if called upon to do so.
DOD is ”all in” on supporting the interagency effort to protect the American people, Esper said, noting that the department has deployed thousands of National Guardsmen in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and four territories.
The Army is deploying field hospitals to major U.S. cities, and the Navy has deployed the hospital ship USNS Mercy to Los Angeles, the secretary said, adding that the hospital ship USNS Comfort soon will deploy to New York City.
World-class researchers at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and other locations are working with researchers elsewhere to come up with vaccines, Esper said, while other DOD efforts include opening up strategic stockpiles of masks, ventilators and other equipment to help the American people.
Testing kits and personal protective equipment are available for DOD medical workers, he said, but he acknowledged that there will be shortages, just as in the civilian sector until the private sector can ramp up production.
Esper said the department is in close coordination with allies and partners and has even reached out to Iran to offer assistance in battling COVID-19.
The secretary also stressed preventive measures people should be taking to slow the spread of the virus, such as social distancing, wiping down surfaces that are touched and hand washing. The best and most trusted guidance can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, which is updated regularly, he added.
”This is not the first challenge the United States has ever faced,” Milley said. ”This is not the first war we’ve ever been in.” As they deal with the invisible coronavirus enemy, military leaders at all levels are expected to follow DOD guidance and to look after their soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, he added.
Combatant commanders and leaders at bases and installations have been delegated with a decision-making authority on matters such as determining when service members and their families can move to new duty assignments, the chairman said.
”We will get through this through solid leadership, caring for our troops and keeping focus on the mission,” Milley said.
Colón-López said the mission is clearly understood and that it’s ”a no-fail mission.” The U.S. military will be flexible and adaptable to deal with this challenge, he said.
Hospital Ship USNS Mercy to Care for Non-COVID-19 Patients in Los Angeles
In a matter of days, the Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy will sail from San Diego and dock in the port of Los Angeles to help lift the burden from local medical treatment facilities that need to focus their resources on patients affected by the coronavirus pandemic, a Navy official said today.
Navy Rear Adm. Timothy H. Weber, commander of the Naval Medical Corps Pacific and director of the Medical Service Corps, spoke with reporters at the Pentagon by telephone to update them on the Mercy’s plans. He was joined by Navy Capt. (Dr.) John R. Rotruck, the ship’s commanding officer.
More than 800 medical professionals, assembled over the last few days, will embark on the Mercy, the admiral said. The doctors, nurses, corpsmen, other medical professionals and mariners will help communities hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, he added.
The Mercy normally handles combat casualty care, and its crew will not treat patients with the coronavirus, the admiral said. The ship and its staff will offer a broad range of medical and surgical support, with the exceptions of obstetrics and pediatrics.
Nearly 60 of the medical staff members are military reservists, Weber said. “We are honored to answer the call in a time of need,” he added.
“Today is a big day for the Mercy, Navy medicine and our national response to the coronavirus,” Rotruck said. He noted that Los Angeles has seen some of the greatest impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to date.
“We will be ready on arrival to support [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and state and local efforts to protect the health of the American people in this whole-of-government approach directed by the president of the United States,” the captain said.
“We are not treating COVID-19 patients, and we are taking proactive measures to ensure anyone coming aboard is properly screened,” Rotruck said. The Mercy has infectious disease prevention measures that will be followed just as any hospital ashore would, he added.
“We will be bringing relief to where we are needed most,” the captain said. The Navy’s hospital ships are uniquely outfitted, for humanitarian and disaster relief, and those serving on the ships are highly skilled and highly trained, he added.
DOD Aims to Fill Medical Gaps With Military While States, Cities Ramp Up
March 23, 2020
The Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy will go to Los Angeles to help relieve pressure on hospitals there so they can focus more on COVID-19 patients, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said.
“We’re working closely with [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] to set the conditions for the ship’s arrival later this week, so that she can start receiving non-COVID-19 medical patients to free up bed space in some of LA’s most heavily stressed hospitals,” Esper said during a news conference today at the Pentagon.
Esper said in the next couple of weeks, the USNS Comfort, currently at Norfolk, Virginia, will head to New York City for the same purpose. The crew and staff there, he said, are preparing for that mission.
Five military field hospitals and expeditionary medical units are on “prepare to deploy” orders, Esper said, and are expected to mobilize this week to various parts of the country. Where those units go, he added, will be based on discussions with FEMA.
“Right now, I anticipate sending a hospital to Seattle and a hospital [to] New York City,” Esper said. “Beyond that, once that’s confirmed, we will look at sending to other places and, as necessary, we will continue to alert units to prepare to deploy and then deploy them as appropriate.”
The hospital ships, military field hospitals and expeditionary medical units must all be manned by medical personnel, Esper said, and a majority of them are drawn from Reserve units. If those personnel are called to active duty to man military medical facilities, he noted, they will need to be pulled from their civilian jobs elsewhere.
“We’re very conscious as we draw people to staff up the ships or the hospitals, where we’re pulling them from,” he said. “You want to make sure that you don’t, you know, have an impact on an area that really needs it simply because you’re trying to staff up a ship or hospital.”
Esper said military medical personnel will also come from active duty units, and he added that DOD is limited in what it can provide if it is going to safeguard the ability to run its own military missions.
The secretary said he sees the military filling gaps in cities that need assistance until those cities can deal with COVID-19 on their own.
During the early stages of the pandemic as cities ramp up capability, DOD can come in for a few weeks to provide that capacity until the cities can convert gyms, hotels and college dorms into medical facilities, he said. “I see us playing this role where we’re the gap-filler for a period of weeks with our capabilities, once the capacity is met through these other mechanisms,” Esper told reporters
The Army Corps of Engineers is also now beginning work around the country to use contracting capability to convert nonmedical facilities such as hotels, dormitories and other buildings into temporary medical facilities, Esper said.
“Constructing [new] facilities, hospitals, whatnot, would take far more time than it would to take existing infrastructure and convert it,” he said.
Esper said the state of New York has been “very aggressive” in identifying sites to be converted. He said the Corps has a four-phase model to make that happen. That includes identifying sites; converting locations to enable them to provide medical capability; installing equipment; and having the state provide medical staff.
“That’s the way you can expand capacity in the volume you need — we’re talking thousands — but it takes some time,” Esper said, adding that he’s been in contact with the state of New York and other governors about how the Corps can help.
Partnering With the U.S. Defense Industrial Base to Combat COVID-19
March 22, 2020
Statement attributed to Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, Department of Defense spokesman:
“The Department continues to aggressively partner with the defense industry to mitigate impacts from COVID-19.
Under Secretary of Defense Ellen Lord’s Acquisition and Sustainment leaders in Industrial Policy, Defense Pricing and Contracting, Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), and the Defense Contracting Management Agency (DCMA) have made significant progress this week in addressing specific concerns outlined by defense industry leaders.
During the 4 daily COVID-19 update calls with defense industry associations leaders this week, led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy Ms. Jennifer Santos, several key concerns identified by industry included 1) critical defense contractor workforce ability to continue working; 2) ensuring cash flow to the defense industrial base; and 3) getting standardized guidance out to industry.
On Friday the Department issued two memos that address all three concerns. After working closely with the Hill and the Department of Homeland Security, Under Secretary Lord issued a Defense Industrial Base Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce memo that defined essentiality in the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) workforce, ensuring the defense industrial base’s critical employees can continue working. The memo also reiterated her commitment to the safety of the workforce and support of the national security mission.
In addition, on Friday Mr. Kim Herrington, Director of Defense Pricing and Contracting, issued a Deviation on Progress Payments memo, which stated that once in contracts, the progress payment rate that contracts can get paid for will increase from 80% of cost to 90% for large businesses and from 90% to 95% for small businesses. This is an important avenue where industry cash flow can be improved. DCMA will work on mass modifications to contracts where applicable (vs one by one) using DCMA authorities. In addition, the Department is accelerating payments through several means to prime contracts and directing prime contracts to expedite payments to subcontractors.
Vice Admiral David Lewis, DCMA Director, has worked closely with the contracting workforce and the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) to ensure that invoices are continuing to be paid in a timely manner.
On Friday, the Acquisition and Sustainment Small Business Office reached out to defense industry small businesses, and is working with the Small Business Administration and their small business emergency loan program to help protect these companies.
The Department is fully engaged with the interagency to leverage the Defense Production Act to help reinforce critical elements of the DIB. It is especially important to understand that during this crisis the DIB is vulnerable to adversarial capital, we need to ensure companies stay in business without losing their technology. The Department will be discussing this in more detail next week.
Under Secretary Lord remains grateful for the productive discussions with the defense industry associations, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Hill and State leaders. She’s especially proud of the incredible efforts of Department leaders and contracting officers across the nation who are helping ensure a secure, reliable and resilient Defense Industrial Base.”
DOD Announces Death of Contractor
March 22, 2020
The Department of Defense is saddened to report that a Crystal City-based contractor, who worked at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, passed away on March 21, 2020. The individual had tested positive for COVID-19 and had been under medical treatment at a local hospital. Our condolences go out to his family, friends and co-workers and we thank the medical professionals who worked to save his life in the face of this virus.
The spaces in DSCA where the individual worked have been cleaned in accordance with CDC guidance when he tested positive and the person’s co-workers have been teleworking.
The Department remains committed to protecting our service members, their families, and our civilian co-workers.
Transition Programs Adapt to Coronavirus Threat
March 20, 2020
The military’s Transition Assistance and Yellow Ribbon Reintegration programs are changing to decrease the potential of transmission of the coronavirus, officials in Washington announced.
Due to the worldwide nature of the Defense Department and the virus outbreak is in different stages in different parts of the globe, The Military-Civilian Transition Office is asking commanders and supervisors to adapt the programs in their regions to fit the coronavirus situation.
A memo from the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness addressed the situation. “This outbreak is dynamic and manifests differently by location, setting, population and individual,” the memo says. “As a result, responses [to the coronavirus] will need to be flexible, tailored and incremental.”
The rescheduling of Transition Assistance Program events are service-specific, at the discretion and decision of commanders and based on DOD guidance. Final decisions on TAP events are up to commanders, but the recommendations are to reduce class sizes and follow the Centers for Disease Control recommendations on gatherings and the need for social distancing.
The Military-Civilian Transition Office also recommends shifting as much of the program as possible into the virtual world.
“We understand the impact COVID-19 has on the community as a whole and the unique challenges it presents in regard to TAP service delivery,” said Tamre Newton, director of the Military-Civilian Transition Office. “The guidance issued by OUSD P and R gives commanders the flexibility to ensure the health and wellbeing of transitioning service members, their families and caregivers while still ensuring they receive the resources and transition support they require for a successful transition to civilian life.”
The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program is for reserve component service members. The program has released an online event tool, available at www.YellowRibbon.mil. The tool is designed to provide deployment-cycle support to reserve component service members and their families in situations in which they are unable to attend in-person events.
“While this tool is not a replacement for in-person events, it is meant to be a fallback for situations when there is simply no other alternative,” said Peter Toelle, chief of program.
Service members and their families, resource providers and community partners who are registered to attend upcoming in-person Yellow Ribbon events will receive status updates through their reserve component representatives. Registered attendees can also access the confirmation link provided at the time of registration.
“YRRP’s mission doesn’t change if in-person events are temporarily restricted,” said Toelle. “National Guard and reserve service members continue to mobilize, so we will continue to provide support throughout the deployment cycle regardless of the format.”
(Courtesy of the Military-Civilian Transition Office )
National Guard Ramping Up COVID-19 Response
March 19, 2020
About 2,050 National Guard soldiers and airmen in 27 states have been activated to support COVID-19 response efforts, the chief of the National Guard Bureau said.
Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel said today that by this weekend that number most likely would double, and it is even possible that tens of thousands of guardsmen could be activated as the situation unfolds, depending on the needs of communities.
There are about 450,000 Guard troops in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories, he noted, with logistical and other capabilities that include airlift, ground transportation, command and control, engineering, kitchens, tents and medical personnel.
Lengyel provided a snapshot of what the Guard is already doing:
- The New York National Guard is helping local officials distribute food, much of it in the hard-hit area of New Rochelle.
- A Tennessee Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft delivered 500,000 swabs to be added to COVID-19 test kits in Memphis yesterday.
- More than 500 soldiers are assisting with collecting samples from drive-through testing in Broward County, Florida.
- In Maryland, the National Guard is supporting medical assessments and testing site operations.
- The Wisconsin National Guard is supporting transportation missions for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.In Louisiana, the Guard liaison officers are assisting the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security in emergency preparedness.
- Across the U.S., civil support teams are supporting the local departments of health with drive-through testing stations.
“We remain flexible and committed for whatever mission we may be called to do,” Lengyel said. He noted that the governors of each state have the flexibility to use the Guard in ways they seem most fit and productive.
So far, six Guardsmen in the U.S. currently have tested positive for COVID-19, he said. Force health protection measures are in place in an effort to prevent more.
Hospital Ships, Other DOD Assets Prepare for Coronavirus Response
March 18, 2020
Two Navy hospital ships will be part of the Defense Department’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman said.
The USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy are being prepared for deployment “as needed to assist potentially overwhelmed counties with acute patient care,” Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the defense secretary for public affairs, said during a news conference today at the Pentagon. He was joined at the briefing by Air Force Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Paul Friedrichs, the Joint Staff surgeon.
The Comfort is now in Norfolk, Virginia, for maintenance, and the Navy has been asked to expedite that, Hoffman said, adding that it may take “a little while” for that ship to be ready to go. It will go to New York when its maintenance is complete.
The Mercy is on the West Coast and is ready to go in “days, not weeks,” he said, and where it will go will be determined when it’s ready to sail.
Both ships face issues with manning, however. Friedrichs, said the ships would likely be manned with typical staffs of personnel trained for combat casualty care, rather than for dealing with a contagious disease like the coronavirus.
“Our understanding is that the intent is the ships will be used to take non-coronavirus patients, which is what our staffs are best assigned and organized to do,” he said.
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper suggested yesterday that one role for military medical professionals in regard to coronavirus response would be to take non-coronavirus patient care off of the hands of civilian hospital staffs so that those staffs could instead deal with coronavirus patients. Military medical personnel, and military medical facilities are geared more toward trauma care than dealing with contagious patients, he said.
The Defense Department has also put a number of active duty medical units on alert. That includes different types of units, Friedrichs said. “Right now, what we are trying to do is make sure we have a range of options available to meet the requests that may come to us from [the Department of Health and Human Services] and from communities.”
Altogether, Friedrichs said, enough units have been put on alert to provide 1,000 beds, a number that doesn’t include those on the Navy’s hospital ships.
DOD has a variety of deployable medical units it could draw on to provide those 1,000 beds, Friedrichs said, including Air Force Expeditionary Medical System units that can be transported rapidly on aircraft; the Army’s much larger Combat Support Hospitals, which can also be deployed by air or over the ground; Army field hospitals; and Navy Expeditionary Medical Facilities.
Hoffman also said that as of 5 a.m. today, 49 military personnel, 14 civilian employees, 19 military family members and seven contractors had confirmed cases of coronavirus.
COVID-19: Exploit What You Can Control
March 17, 2020
“Can’t,” “don’t,” “contain” and “restrict” are negative words present everywhere in the news, the media and conversation. The threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus will undoubtedly remain a challenge for everyone for months to come. Significant abrupt restrictions and closures are making many within our communities feel very controlled and unhappy.
With so much heightened fear, paranoia and global concern due to COVID-19, stress and anxiety continue to skyrocket. While the containment strategy the United States is executing is difficult, it is vital to follow directed medical and public health expert precautions, mandates and guidelines to “curtail the curve” and control the rampant spread of this highly contagious and deadly illness.
As we all do our part to help, fear is natural. However when left unharnessed, fear can lead to panic and destructive behavior. We are already seeing this in grocery stores and other shops — just try looking for toilet paper!
Recent extended school closures and activity cancellations are already tearing apart the stability that children are accustomed to, need and enjoy. Parents are grappling with new daytime extended child care requirements, unforecasted home school burdens and how to keep children productive.
Many of us feel like we can’t control much in our lives right now due to the threat of this powerful virus, but what we absolutely can control is how we react and what we do. Based on prior military experience as a battalion commander and 20-plus years of service in the Army dealing with intense uncertainty and high stress, I offer the following tips for how to turn this pandemic into a productive and positive experience while concurrently doing our part to maintain social distancing in support the nation’s battle against COVID-19.
Lead … Make Lemons Out of Lemonade (or better yet, make a lemon-infused cocktail!) Take the restrictions and challenges presented by COVID-19 to create incredible opportunities. Continue to lead within your family and among your friends and colleagues. Be an example for your children and others to follow.Turn Uncertainty Into Certainty. This pandemic is plaguing society with heavy uncertainty, yet there is still so much we can control. Redirect your energy away from uncertainty and focus on those aspects of life that are certain.
Community. What are you doing to help your community? What talents or resources can you share for the betterment of others within your area? Do your elderly neighbors need assistance in a manner that you can support them within local restriction guidelines? If you are allowed to shop in your local community, remember that many small businesses are struggling during this crisis so wisely consider where you spend your hard-earned money.
Immunity. Improve your immune system through diet and exercise. Eat well and enjoy Vitamin C – this starts at home. If you do get sick, you will conquer it faster and more successfully if your immunity is strong.
Time. We traditionally never have enough time in our lives. If you are a parent of a school-aged child, you likely have far less time now if schools are closed. If you are not a parent of a school-aged child, you may have a lot more availability with so many activities and events cancelled. So, what are you going to do with this opportunity? Be decisive with time and make a productive plan.Get Outside. Go camping with family, go for a walk/run/bike, and get outdoors. Enjoy spring!
Taxes. We have no excuse for not having time to get taxes done now. Knock them out.
“To Do” List. Closets and “to do” projects: now is the time. Tackle them.
Leverage Technology. Use Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, phone calls and letters to stay connected. We already have the tools and the means. Don’t fret on how to pursue education or communicate: Keep living and learning. CAUTION: Don’t stare at your devices all day.Unplug. Communicate with family and friends. This is an invaluable time to do so.
Opportunity. Focus on how to turn your COVID-19 prevention from a crisis into an unanticipated opportunity for growth, support, health, community and family.
Discounts and Offerings. Many local and national companies are offering exceptional deals and special accommodations to maintain their customer base. Check them out.
Invest. What financial investments can you make now to help later? Stocks are at record lows; consider buying.
Don’t Hoard. So, where is all of the toilet paper for purchase across many stores nationwide, and why do people think they need it for COVID-19? This is a prime example of panic-induced purchases, and we shouldn’t selfishly hoard products that create a lack of availability for others.
Don’t Mentally Suffocate; Stay Positive. Control your reactions to restrictive measures required to prevent and battle this pandemic. Positive, productive mental health is a huge component needed to fight this illness and will directly improve community response.Create. Challenge yourself and your family to be more creative with resources and time. Expand your boundaries within your home. Paint a room, use a new recipe and rediscover your ingenuity.
Focus. Turn your focus from what you can’t do to what you CAN do.
Win. We cannot fall victim to feeling sorry for ourselves or become hindered during this difficult time. Don’t let this virus win – mentally or physically!
We will come together as a nation if we all do our part to prevent and fight the spread of COVID-19. Turning the challenges of this pandemic into opportunities to positively exploit growth individually, within our families, and to protect our communities will bind us together. As we tackle this new (temporary) normal, we can be more productive, stronger and happier if we focus on what we CAN do versus what we cannot!
(Army Col. Elizabeth A. Martin is assigned as a student at the U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.)
COVID-19 Prevention Tips
March 16, 2020
Pentagon Spokesman: DOD Ready to Help With Coronavirus, but Capability Limited
March 16, 2020
As concerns of coronavirus grow, the Defense Department stands ready to provide support wherever it’s asked to do so, the assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs said.
“The Department of Defense is ready, willing and able to support civilian authorities to the greatest extent possible with the direction of the president,” Jonathan Rath Hoffman said during a Pentagon news conference today. “We just want to make sure that the conversation that is being had is informed by the facts of what is possible, what is not, and what those trade-offs are.”
While the U.S. military is often depicted in movies and on television as having the capacity to stand up vast medical capabilities at a moment’s notice, both Hoffman and Air Force Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Paul Friedrichs, the Joint Staff surgeon, cautioned against overestimating the department’s capacity to provide medical capabilities to support a contagion like coronavirus.
Hoffman told reporters that DOD has only about 2% to 3% of the number of hospital beds that the private sector has. The department runs only 36 hospitals in the United States, Friedrichs said, many of which are ill-suited for caring for large numbers of contagious patients.
“Many of them are configured to support, as you might imagine, our immediate military needs,” Friedrichs said. “They take care of the active duty population and their families and some retirees. Some large facilities such as the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, have much more diverse services,” he added. “We have a number of smaller facilities in more remote locations, like Fort Wainwright, Alaska, [which] has a small hospital that offers obstetrical services and basic community hospital type services,” the Joint Staff surgeon said.
Hoffman pointed out that military doctors are better trained for wartime injuries than for treating communicable illnesses such as COVID-19.
“Our doctors are, unsurprisingly, trained highly in traumatic injuries and [for] dealing with traumatic injuries,” he said. “We have a much younger population that we’re dealing with treating in our hospitals. And so all of these kind of factor into what is that capability we have for a potential outbreak that generally has been more devastating to older persons who require a different type of attention than we normally do.”
Even military tent hospitals that can be set up ad-hoc to respond to an emergency are designed for trauma care, not contagious diseases, Friedrichs said.
“We do have tent hospitals. They are deployable hospitals. … The challenge is they’re designed to take care of trauma patients and combat casualties,” he said. “We have supported humanitarian operations. … We’ve supported relief efforts during natural disasters. But what we’re trying to be very careful of is not over-promising, you know. We want to be factual about what we have.
“Our fixed facilities are designed to the force that we have,” he continued. “There are not thousand-bed medical centers all over the United States. They are, for the most part, small community hospitals. Our deployable hospitals range in size and range in capabilities that are very much focused and designed to take care of those in combat.”
While both the National Guard and the Reserve components have medical doctors that can be called out to provide support, if needed, both Hoffman and Friedrichs noted that medical personnel in the Guard and Reserve are often also medical personnel in their private-sector jobs.
“If you mobilize the Guard and Reserve medical personnel from their civilian jobs, they’re no longer in their civilian jobs, and that directly impacts the community where they worked, and that’s the trade-off that — whether it’s a natural disaster, or the coronavirus or anything else — that’s part of the trade-off that we look at as we offer options going forward,” Friedrichs said.
So far, Hoffman said, the Defense Department has received requests for assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services for quarantining and housing of people who were evacuated from China, those who had been on the Grand Princess and Diamond Princess cruise ships, and those who flew back to the United States through 11 feeder airports and needed to be quarantined.
“We have not received any other [requests] at this time that we have responded to,” he said.
Hoffmann told reporters that DOD has seen 37 reported cases of COVID-19: 18 military personnel, 13 military family members, three civilian employees and three contractors.
To stem further spread of the coronavirus, he said, the department has issued updated guidance on domestic travel. Effective today though May 11, all domestic travel for military personnel is halted unless it’s for mission-essential travel or humanitarian reasons.
Additionally, he said, DOD has given directors of installation commissaries additional authorities to manage their inventory to provide the best service to military members and their families.
“Today the department has given authority to local commissary store directors to impose restrictions on purchasing high-demand products,” Hoffman said. “This will be in coordination with base leadership. The department is working to make sure that service members and their families on base understand these changes and have access to the goods that they need.”
DOD Officials Explain New Coronavirus Domestic Travel Restrictions
March 15, 2020
Defense officials announced restrictions on domestic travel yesterday for service members, Defense Department employees and family members in response to the new coronavirus, or COVID-19
Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist signed a memorandum halting all domestic travel, to include permanent changes of station and temporary duty travel. The ban is in effect from March 16 to May 11.
Officials speaking on background said the new memo said that service members will only be authorized local leave only.
The ban is in addition to restrictions on all DOD military and civilian personnel and their families traveling to, from, or through areas for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice. That policy also stops PCS and TDY travel through May.
There are exceptions for hardship, mission essential and humanitarian travel, but those exceptions must be approved. Domestic travel for medical treatment is excluded from the ban.
There are 10 service members who have tested positive for COVID-19. One DOD civilian and two DOD contractors have the virus, as do eight family members, officials said. There are 13 DOD laboratories that can test samples for the virus.
The officials said the new policy is aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus. Each day tens of thousands of service members and DOD civilians are traveling. This ”strategic pause” is ”the best and safest route” to slowing the spread of the virus, they said.
The Pentagon reservation is also taking actions and raised the health protection condition in the building and associated properties to Bravo. This means all tours of the building are cancelled. Starting March 16, offices in the building will go on minimum manning, with vast numbers of employees teleworking.
Offices in the building will have rotating staffs and ”red and blue” teams. Those employees who require access to classified information to do their mission-essential tasks will work from the building, officials said.
Statement by the Department of Defense on COVID-19 Response Measures on the Pentagon Reservation
March 14, 2020
Today, the Secretary of Defense approved a recommendation to increase the Health Protection Condition level to BRAVO at the Pentagon Reservation, and CHARLIE at the Armed Forces Retirement Homes in Gulfport, Mississippi, and Washington, District of Columbia, to assist public health efforts and contain the spread of the virus at the Pentagon and associated facilities in the National Capital Regions, including the Mark Center, Defense Health Headquarters, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and DOD leased facilities, as well as our Retirement Homes. The increase will take effect at midnight on Sunday, March 15, 2020.
The department will continue to issue additional guidance with regard to the COVID-19 as conditions warrant. Our goal is to remain ahead of the virus spread so our military force remains effective and ready.
For more information on Pentagon Reservation, visit https://www.whs.mil/Coronavirus/.
We encourage all DOD personnel to visit https://www.defense.gov/Explore/Spotlight/Coronavirus/ for information on staying healthy during the outbreak.
Statement by Department of Defense on Enhanced Health Protection Measures for the Pentagon Reservation
March 13, 2020
To assist public health efforts to contain the spread
of COVID-19 and protect DOD employees and visitors, additional force
health protections will be implemented at the Pentagon and associated
facilities in the National Capital Region, including the Mark Center,
Defense Health Headquarters, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces,
and DOD leased facilities.
Effective midnight on Sunday, March 15, 2020:
- All unofficial visits are suspended, to include personal guests and friends of DOD personnel and contractors. All large gatherings, such as retirement and promotion ceremonies, shall cease. All Pentagon Tours have been suspended since March 12, 2020.
- All official visits by international partners and visitors are suspended. Exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Secretary of Defense, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Chief Management Officer (on behalf of the Fourth Estate), Director of the Joint Staff, as delegated by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretaries of the military services.
- Any individual, DOD civilian, military service member, contractor, or official visitor with recent international travel may not enter the Pentagon Facilities within 14 days from the date of their arrival back to the United States. Access may be restored on the 15th day, if the individual remains asymptomatic.
- Sponsoring offices for visits to the Pentagon building, Mark Center, Defense Health Headquarters, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and other Pentagon facilities must register official visitors at least 24 hours in advance through the Pentagon Force Protection Agency Visitor Management System. Official visits to DOD leased facilities will be managed by the designated officials or security managers.
Additional information may be found on https://www.whs.mil/Coronavirus/.
Army Medical Personnel Describe Efforts to Develop Coronavirus Vaccine
March 5, 2020
The Army held a Pentagon press briefing today to discuss their effort in developing a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Army researchers are taking a “whole of government” approach with other agencies, including the National Institutes of Health; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; industry; and academia in the U.S. and abroad to detect, prevent and treat COVID-19, said Brig. Gen. Michael J. Talley, commander of Army Medical Research and Development Command and Fort Detrick in Maryland.
The work being done by Army researchers is a collaborative effort with those partners to ensure there’s no duplication, added Dr. Nelson Michael, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
Regarding potential vaccines, robust testing will be underway soon, he said.
The first phase of testing has already started: testing potential vaccines in mice to see what their response is and making sure it’s safe, Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, director of Emerging Infectious Diseases at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research said.
The next phase would be testing in larger animals that are more similar to humans, including monkeys, he said.
Modjarrad said he didn’t want to speculate when human testing would begin.
All DOD personnel can visit https://www.defense.gov/Explore/Spotlight/Coronavirus/ for information on staying healthy during the outbreak.