U.S. National Guard troops could be deployed to assist different states in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, according to the head of the U.S. National Guard.
Cleaning public spaces and delivering food to homes amid the coronavirus outbreak are among the areas where the National Guard, part of the reserve component of the U.S. Armed Forces, is expected to assist 27 states, including New York, in.
General Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, announced that around 2,000 troops have been called to assist so far. He believes the number could double by the weekend.
“It’s hard to tell what the exact requirement will be, but I’m expecting tens of thousands to be used inside the states as this grows,” said Lengyel to the press.
He explained that the National Guard could back local law enforcement efforts under state control. He added that this would not be possible if it is federalized, emphasizing he was not aware of any such plans and did not see it as ideal.
“That would not make sense in this situation,” Lengyel said.
However, a Pentagon spokeswoman clarified that the Defense Department would not implement federalization of the National Guard.
State health departments reported that the country has around 9,000 cases of the novel coronavirus, with more than 3,000 in New York state.
“It’s a historic event, unlike any we have faced in recent years,” Lengyel said. He also compared the pandemic to a national disaster of extraordinary scale.
“It’s like we have 54 separate hurricanes in every state and territory and the District of Columbia… Unlike a hurricane, we don’t know when this is going to dissipate or move out to sea,” he added.
The Pentagon disclosed that 51 U.S. military service members were found positive of coronavirus but none were hospitalized and two had already recovered.