Sending in the troops: More than 3,300 National Guard soldiers are deployed across 28 states and US Army Corps of Engineers work to convert 10,000 hotel and dorm rooms to hospitals in New York as military expands role in coronavirus outbreak

Saturday, March 21, 2020
By Paul Martin

All 50 states have issued emergency declaration due to coronavirus outbreak
Declaration is critical step before mobilizing the National Guard
Tens of thousands of Guard troops are likely to be mobilized in coming days
US Army Corps of Engineers will be deployed to hard-hit New York State
Corps will convert dorm rooms, hotels, and sports arenas to makeshift hospitals
Pentagon is also expected to send hospital ship to New York Harbor
New York faces crushing shortage of hospital beds as more cases are confirmed
Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

21 March 2020

With tens of millions of Americans on lockdown and more expected, the United States military is likely to take on a greater role in helping to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the coming days and weeks.

The US Army Corps of Engineers is looking at converting more than 10,000 rooms in New York, potentially in hotels and college dorms, into medical care units to help address the fast-spreading coronavirus, the commanding general of the Army Corps said on Friday.

President Trump on Friday declared New York State a major disaster area as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases skyrockets and New York City was declared the epicenter of the US outbreak by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The pandemic has upended life in much of the United States, shuttering schools and businesses, prompting millions to work from home, forcing many out of jobs and sharply curtailing travel.

Lieutenant General Todd Semonite told reporters at the Pentagon that the Army Corps was looking at converting the rooms and other large spaces into intensive care unit-type facilities and it would need to happen within weeks, not months.

‘We’re talking about over 10,000 that we are looking at right now,’ Semonite said, adding that a decision would be made by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Earlier this week, the White House said it was in talks with the Pentagon about how the military can be deployed to deal with the coronavirus, including setting up field hospitals in states with a surge in cases.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for the Army Corps to increase hospital capacity.

The Army Corps of Engineers is made up of 37,000 soldiers and civilians providing engineering services in more than 130 countries, its website says.

The head of the US National Guard said on Thursday that he expected that tens of thousands National Guard troops could eventually be involved in efforts to help deal with the fast-moving coronavirus in the United States, but he did not see a need to federalize them.

‘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,’ General Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau said during a Pentagon press briefing.

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