Nearly 5,500 Air and Army National Guard troops have been deployed in 32 states because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The deployment is said to be to help clean and disinfect public spaces, assist at medical testing facilities, support Emergency Operations Centers, provide logistic support and personal protective equipment training and sample collection.
“National Guard members work and live in every community across the nation and have a proven track record of success supporting civilian authorities after homeland emergencies,” spokesperson for the National Guard told The Hill.
The Hill reports that when asked if the White House could federalize the Guard to respond to the illness, National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Joseph Lengyel told reporters that President Trump could do so if desired, but that such a move “would not make sense in this situation.”
“Every state has a different way to deal with disasters. If you were to federalize [the Guard], you would lose that ability,” he said.
The US now has an emergency declaration in every state, territory and the District of Columbia.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom has deployed the state’s National Guard to assist at food banks. He has said that he will be using them for both humanitarian and public safety needs.
Mississippi is using their National Guard to distribute supplies and possibly helping to set up and support drive-thru COVID-19 screening facilities.
General Joseph Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard, took to social media to combat rumors of martial law or a nationwide lockdown, tweeting “I hear unfounded rumors about #NationalGuard troops supporting a nationwide quarantine. Let me be clear: There has been no such discussion.”
I hear unfounded rumors about #NationalGuard troops supporting a nationwide quarantine. Let me be clear: There has been no such discussion. … For news about the great work the Guard IS doing to support the #Covid_19 response, click the link. #COVID19 https://t.co/JZROM4xfF9
— General Daniel Hokanson (@ChiefNGB) March 20, 2020
After a video of a train full of military vehicles said to be going through the Chicago area went viral, the Illinois National Guard responded on social media and claimed that it has nothing to do with coronavirus and that they haven’t moved vehicles through the area in over a month.
This video was taken in Barrington IL (NW suburb of Chicago) about 3 hours ago.
Metra North line heading to Chicago and then further East.
Coming soon? pic.twitter.com/C7bKNdn3mA
— Jim Bianco biancoresearch.eth (@biancoresearch) March 20, 2020
“There are a lot of rumors going around about the Illinois National Guard being activated to enforce a quarantine in Chicago or other areas of the state. Some even have video of a train moving military equipment near the city,” they wrote on Facebook. “We confirmed with our logistics officer that we haven’t had trains moving Illinois National Guard equipment through Chicago in more than a month. These are not our vehicles. The military moves equipment all the time. This has nothing to do with COVID-19 response.”
The IL National Guard also responded to another video on Twitter.
Ryan – The only troops we are sending to the Chicago area is a small contingent of medical personnel – doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, medical technicians. The military ships vehicles all the time. This is in no way related to COVID-19.
— IL National Guard (@IL_Natl_Guard) March 19, 2020
“People are understandably anxious about coronavirus. We will let people know as troops are activated for additional missions,” the organization wrote in a statement. “Please remember, the National Guard is a community-based organization. We are your neighbors, your friends, your relatives, your co-workers – we are you. We’re all in this together and we’ll get through it together. Stay safe!”