Stars & Strips – Thirty-six American service members worldwide had tested positive for the Coronavirus as of Tuesday, a Pentagon spokesman said, confirming that the cases among troops had doubled in just one day.
In total, 59 members of the Defense Department community had confirmed cases of the fast-spreading Coronavirus, formally known as COVID-19, said Army Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell, a Pentagon spokesman. Eight DOD civilians, 12 military dependents, three defense contractors and the 36 service members have the virus, he said, noting the numbers were current as of early Tuesday. The headline is a bit alarming and misleading, as doubling from a small number makes it appear this way.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday afternoon that U.S. troops were likely in a good position to avoid serious individual consequences if they contracted the disease. The Coronavirus is most likely to seriously sicken or kill older individuals and those with major chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes or lung disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The defense chief this week ordered the Navy to prepare its two hospital ships – the San Diego-based USNS Mercy and the Norfolk-based USNS Comfort – for potential deployment. Both of the ships have about 1,000 hospital beds and are run by military medical professionals, but they are designed to respond to traumatic emergencies, officials have said. Many of the medical professionals come from the Pentagon’s reserve ranks, which would mean pulling them away from their civilian jobs – often in hospitals, Esper said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that the American military should “get in this game” and help areas battling the coronavirus outbreak, while also clarifying that he is “almost to the point” of recommending a city-wide “shelter-in-place” order to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Well, they are. Here is a video showing what the US military is doing now:
The President confirmed on Wednesday that two U.S. Navy hospital ships – the USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort – are being readied to deploy on both U.S. coasts. The Comfort, currently docked in Norfolk and undergoing maintenance, will head to New York City. It is amazing and reassuring to watch President Trump take a full hands-on role when battling this crisis – paying attention to every detail.
“We have a very young and healthy and fit military population,” Esper said at the Pentagon. “I think they will fair well throughout this … they’ll be fine.”