Army readies hospitals for New York City and Seattle while creating ‘safety bubble’ for soldiers

Friday, March 27, 2020
By Paul Martin

by Abraham Mahshie
March 27, 2020

Army hospitals will arrive at New York City on Friday and will operate at the Javits Center Monday, the Army said in a Pentagon press conference on Thursday that also focused on protecting the force from further COVID-19 infections.

Army hospital resources from Fort Campbell in Kentucky and Fort Hood in Texas, 284 total beds, will be deployed to New York City. Fort Carson in Colorado will deploy 248 beds to Seattle.

Meanwhile, with 100 COVID-19 cases among active-duty troops, the Army took serious preventive measures to protect its force.

“It’s a tenuous balance,” said Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy. “Being ready and being able to perform our current missions to support national objectives — but it’s also of stemming the threat.”

“I am absolutely concerned that as the trends increase in the United States Army that it’s going to impact not just our citizens but our soldiers,” said Army Surgeon General Lieut. Gen. Raymond Dingle, who was also part of the press conference. “We have to limit the exposure.”

Dingle spoke of the “discipline of social and physical distancing,” and Army chief of staff Gen. James C. McConville said that immediate response forces have been elevated to Health Protection Condition Delta, the highest level.

“We still have a combat mission to protect the nation. We’ve still got to keep the force ready,” he said. “We cannot shut the Army.”

McConville said the measures were meant to create a “safety bubble” around soldiers, much as Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier did to protect his forces in Italy and Gen. Robert Abrams did to protect his forces in South Korea, both countries hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak, to halt the virus’s spread on U.S. military installations.

“You create safety bubbles, and you make sure that all the people inside the bubble do not have the virus,” he said.

Measures such as reducing access points, conducting screenings, taking temperatures, canceling meetings, and postponing outside exercises and formations are now being adopted Army-wide.

McConville said there is no pattern to the Army’s virus infections.

“We have not seen clusters yet,” he said. The Army surgeon general said more than 500 soldiers have been tested and that the Army has 13,000 test kits on hand, sufficient for current needs.

McConville also said there has been a call to retired officers, noncommissioned officers, and soldiers with medical experience to volunteer, and the response has been “very, very positive” without disclosing numbers.

To date, more than 10,000 members of the National Guard are deployed in all 54 states, territories and Washington, D.C., to assist with COVID-19 response tasks, including distributing food and personal protective equipment, supporting testing facilities, transporting medical personnel, and cleaning and disinfecting areas potentially contaminated by the virus.

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