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USA’s national guard to the rescue

2020-04-06 17:39:49
The USA is now facing its biggest ever challenge in the history of peacetime. With hundreds of thousands infected, the US is mobilising its National Guard to help contain the spread of the disease. The National Guard will play a pivotal role in alleviating the medical burden felt by hospitals throughout the country by enforcing social distancing measures as well as assisting in national efforts aimed at reducing the strain on hospitals President Trump has expanded the role of the US Army in the fight against deadly coronavirus

On Friday, the US reported around 7,380 deaths and at least 276,500 infections due to the deadly coronavirus, the highest for any country in the world. The New York state alone crossed 100,000 and the deaths touched 3,000. Its neighbouring New Jersey followed up with nearly 30,000 infections and 646 deaths. 

Members of the White House task force on coronavirus expect the deadly disease to peak in the next 2 weeks. Various models have predicted between 100,000 to 200,000 deaths in the next few months, during which a large number of people are likely to be infected.

As such, the administration would require thousands of new hospital beds and thousands of ventilators along with face masks and other medical supplies.

As part of a national effort, more than 17,250 National Guard troops have been deployed in all 50 states and territories to help battle the coronavirus pandemic in a wide variety of assignments from disinfecting nursing homes in Georgia to removing the bodies of victims in New York City to helping police in Rhode Island pull over motorists with New York tags entering the state.

National Guard members are also assisting states in building new treatment centres and assist in the seamless distribution of medical supplies.

The Army Corps of Engineers are rapidly building temporary hospitals and alternative care sites in many states in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, Ohio, Trump added.

The Javits Convention Centre in New York that has been converted overnight into a 2,500 beds hospital by the army would now be manned by the armed forces as well

US National Guard

The National Guard, which is community-based, reports to the governor of a state unless called to protect U.S. domestic interests in times of conflict or natural disaster, or even internationally alongside full-time service members.

Members of the Army or Air National Guard, which number almost 450,000 across the U.S. and its territories, hold civilian jobs or attend school while training part-time for the military. 

In most cases, the governor calls them up after declaring a state of emergency. They can also be federalised by the president, who can then deploy them to other states, such as during natural disasters 

Here's how the guard has been deployed across the country:

- In Michigan, about 3,000 National Guard troops will help run mobile screening facilities, distribute food and medical supplies and disinfect public spaces. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also plans to deploy guard members to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to build a temporary medical centre inside Detroit’s TCF Centre.
- In New York, the state hit hardest by the pandemic, more than 27,000 guard members are putting up a temporary hospital, delivering supplies, clearing roads, taking coronavirus samples at testing centres and even manning call centres.
- In New York City, guard members also will be working with members of the New York City Medical Examiner's office to help remove bodies, said Col. Richard Goldenberg, New York Army National Guard public affairs officer.
- In Arizona, a team of 19 National Guard soldiers built a 50-bed federal medical station overnight Sunday to begin supporting the Navajo Nation in the fight against the pandemic.
- In Iowa, eight National Guard troops set up two tents last week at a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital to screen visitors for the virus.
- In Pennsylvania, 25 National Guard members unloaded equipment to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency build a non-coronavirus overflow clinic at a school.
- In Kentucky, troops have been stationed outside Louisville hospitals, and Gov. Andy Beshear has mobilized 70 members to food bank warehouses around the state to assist in sorting, packing and distributing food. 
- In West Virginia, about 350 guard members are delivering medical supplies to health care workers, educating big-box retail stores, restaurants and convenience stores on protective measures, and even directing traffic at drive-through testing sites.
- In Rhode Island, guard troops joined police to man checkpoints on Interstate 95 and other routes into the state to stop cars with license plates from New York, which is the epicentre of the outbreak.
- In Washington state, guards are being mobilised to "ensure our critical food banks remain stocked and operational." He asked residents to "welcome them in our communities as they process, package and distribute meals.”

Troops are being used for everything from traffic control to crowd control, but there is no plan to use them to impose a quarantine, enforce shelter-in-place operations or any kind of large-scale lockdown capacity.

More assistance

In addition to ensuring that healthcare workers in New York have the protective equipment the federal government’s Department of Defense is providing about 8.1 million respirators.

The Department of Health and Human Services is working with the Department of Justice and has taken the custody of nearly 200,000 N95 respirators, 130,000 surgical masks, 600,000 gloves as well as many bottles and disinfectant sprays.