National Guard wages war on virus: Drive-thru tests, medical supplies and training

Some states picking up monthly tabs estimated at $8-9 million per 1,000 troops

National Guard fighting coronavirus, Maryland
Members of Maryland Army National Guard work to set up triage tent outside hospital ER, March 19
(Drew Angerer/Getty)
Last Updated:
March 24, 2020 - 10:48pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Throughout the nation, civilian jurisdictions increasingly are relying on help from the National Guard, regardless of whether Guard forces have been activated into federal status by President Trump. 

On Sunday, Trump said that in response to the coronavirus pandemic, he has activated the National Guard in California, New York and Washington state. The individual governors will command their states’ Guard components, using federal funds.

Other jurisdictions, while also coping with the pandemic, are summoning their own Guards, funded from state coffers.

On Monday afternoon, Baltimore County, Md. became the latest jurisdiction to ask for non-federalized help from the National Guard.

“We’ve asked for the guard’s help to support our county’s evolving response to this unprecedented pandemic,” Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said in a statement. “These are neighbors from our communities who are here to support us all during this uncertain time.”

As in other areas of the country, the request from Olszewksi would include asking Guard members to hand out food, or provide logistical support. 

Elsewhere in Maryland, Air National Guard members from Middle River, Maryland, have been stationed at a Strategic National Stockpile site, loading medical supplies destined for civilian health care workers in the state. 

In Louisiana, Guard medics have set up and are conducting COVID-19 drive-through tests in New Orleans, and have been testing and training first responders.

In Wisconsin, the Guard sent medics to pitch in at a senior living facility in Grafton. Members brought their own military-issued personal protective equipment, according to a spokesman for the Wisconsin National Guard.

In Kentucky, Guard members have been delivering medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile. In Arizona, they are keeping grocery shelves stocked with goods. In New Mexico, they are delivering meals to school children, and are delivering medical supplies. In Connecticut, the Guard has set up medical support trailers for the state’s Department of Public Health.

The cost to activate the state-controlled troops is about $8 million to $9 million per month for every 1,000 troops, according to the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C.

So far, the president has directed only the three states to be placed in federal status.

"This will give [governors] maximum flexibility to use the Guard," Trump said yesterday at the White House coronavirus task force briefing.

The Guard units will be activated under Title 32 of the United States Code, in the section pertaining to the National Guard. 


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