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National Guard Ramping Up COVID-19 Response

March 19, 2020 | BY David Vergun

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.

A man in an Air Force uniform speaks to an audience.
Pentagon Briefing
Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau provides an update on the COVID-19 response at a Pentagon news conference, March 19, 2020.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Brandy Nicole Mejia
VIRIN: 200319-D-AP390-1094A

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.

Men use a hand truck to move stacks of boxes
Loading Supplies
Soldiers from the Michigan National Guard assist the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services assemble and load critical personal protective gear, such as gloves, gowns and face shields, in Lansing, Mich., March 18, 2020. Once packaged, the state health department will deliver the supplies to various local health departments to help fight COVID-19, the coronavirus.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. James R Bennett
VIRIN: 200318-A-TD900-498A

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.
    A woman swabs man’s nose..
    Coronavirus Testing
    Medics with the Louisiana Army and Air National Guard train in New Orleans with the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure proper protection and administration of coronavirus testing, March 18, 2020.
    Photo By: Army Maj. John Meche
    VIRIN: 200318-Z-XX999-001
  • 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.
    Two people look over radios.
    Equipment Check
    Soldiers from the California Army National Guard's 115th Regional Support Group check radio equipment at the Roseville Armory in Roseville, Calif., in preparation for activation to help with the coronavirus outbreak, March 18, 2020.
    Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza
    VIRIN: 200318-Z-WM549-001A
  • 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 deem 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.