Trump considers mobilizing National Guard for coronavirus response

The Department of Defense will soon be aiding states with their coronavirus via the National Guard and Reserves:

POLITICO – The administration is considering mobilizing the National Guard and Reserve at the federal level to help combat the coronavirus, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced Tuesday, while also preparing hospital ships to treat patients.

Esper briefed Vice President Mike Pence and other members of the coronavirus task force on Monday on ways the Defense Department can help deal with the crisis, he told reporters. One of the options the leaders discussed was deploying the National Guard and Reserve to assist states with planning, logistics and medical support, he said.

Federalizing the National Guard:

At the state level, 18 governors have already activated more than 1,500 guardsmen to assist with the U.S. response to the virus, Esper said. These forces are helping operate drive-thru virus testing facilities, staff emergency operations centers, clean public spaces and transport health care workers.

By federalizing the force, guardsmen would be put under control of the president, rather than their respective governors, and could deploy outside their state. In addition, the deployment would be funded by the federal government, rather than the states.



Hospital ships:

The department is also preparing the Navy’s two hospital ships, the USNS Comfort and the USNS Mercy, for a potential deployment to hotspots to help support patients who aren’t suffering from COVID-19, relieving civilian hospitals dealing with the virus, Esper said.

“Our capabilities are focused on trauma … they don’t have necessarily the segregated spaces that you need to deal with infectious diseases,” Esper said, adding that building field hospitals or deploying the hospital ships could “take the pressure off of civilian hospitals when it comes to trauma cases to open up civilian hospital rooms for infectious diseases.”

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In other measures, the Pentagon will make available up to 5 million N95 respirator masks and other personal protective equipment from its own reserves and distribute up to 2,000 deployable ventilators to the Department of Health and Human Services, Esper said. In addition, the department has made its 14 certified coronavirus testing labs available to test non-DoD personnel, and will soon add two more labs for that purpose.

It appears the administration is hitting on all cylinders now as it moves to help states and localities respond to the coronavirus. It will be very hard for Democrats to use this as a tool to bludgeon Trump later this year as we get close to the general election.

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