US military told to ‘prepare for coronavirus epidemic’

US Department of Defense instructs military to brace for a coronavirus ‘pandemic’ and quarantine any soldiers that have been to China this month

  • Wednesday, the Department of Defense sent a memo to Navy and Marine Corps commanders to prepare for a pandemic of coronavirus 
  • They’re ordered to check their preparedness plans to ensure military members can help maintain order, contain outbreaks and be ready for combat 
  • It also instructed that troops who have been to China since February 2 should be put in isolation and monitored  

The US military has been given an executive order to prepare for the possibility of a coronavirus pandemic. 

Navy and Marine Corps have been instructed to set their pandemic plans in motion and quarantine any service men or women who have been in mainland China since February 2. 

Commanders are now reviewing their plans for containing the disease in the event that it breaks out among military personnel and to play a role, if necessary, in help authorities contain the disease in the general public in the US and abroad. 

However, in no way ‘does the planning indicate a greater likelihood of an event developing,’ Navy Lt Commander Mike Hatfield told the Military Times. 

‘As military professionals, planning for a range of contingencies is something we owe the American people.’ 

It comes as the number of American cases rose to 15 on Thursday, with the most recent three patients being people who had been quarantined on military bases after evacuation from Wuhan. 

March Air Reserve Base began running drills to prepare for coronavirus before evacuees were quarantined there. Now, the Department of Defense has told the Marine Corps and Navy to prepare for a 'coronavirus pandemic'

March Air Reserve Base began running drills to prepare for coronavirus before evacuees were quarantined there. Now, the Department of Defense has told the Marine Corps and Navy to prepare for a ‘coronavirus pandemic’ 

The Trump administration has been aggressive in tackling the outbreak via travel restrictions and broadly praised China’s response, although economic adviser Larry Kudlow criticized China’s lack of transparency after it reported a 14,000 spike in cases on Thursday. 

The military is now bracing for a pandemic in much the same way that global public health officials are and have been doing. 

Priorities include making sure that their plans for response are up-to-date and well fit to handle this particular outbreak.  

Marines are further expected to ‘prepare for potential outbreaks of [COVID-19]’ and be equipped to ‘mitigate, respond and recover from the effects in order to maintain force readiness.’ 

The memo is not so much a call to arms as a notice to do preemptive checks to ensure readiness. 

It could prove important, however. 

The military has experience coordinating complex logistic responses, which may be required enforce quarantines and allocate resources.  

Because the military has outposts around the globe, its members may also become important to mounting consistent global defenses against a pandemic.  

‘We coordinate with other combatant commands to assess potential impacts in the event of a pandemic and we ensure the US military is poised to respond as required,’ Hatfield said in a statement. 

‘The military profession fosters a culture of planning, and the fact that we are coordinating planning efforts across the geographical combatant commands is consistent with how we prepare to respond, if directed.’ 

For the time being, however, the primary directive is to check the travel history of service men and women and move anyone who has  been to China since February 2 to containment, in temporary lodges on bases. 

These are the same measures currently applied to more than 600 civilians who have returned from Wuhan on evacuation flights and are currently housed in quarantine on air force and marine bases in California, Nebraska and Texas, the latter of which confirmed its first coronavirus patient Thursday. 

Days before the first evacuees from Wuhan arrived at March Air Reserve Base to be quarantined, troops there were put through the paces of training for CBRNE

Last week, the Department of Defense also announced that it had expanded quarantine designation to 11 more bases, in case an outbreak did ‘take a foot hold in the US,’ as the CDC warned it could do on Wednesday, and more people had to be put in isolation.