National Guard units in 54 states and territories as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency are gearing up to assist with the declaration of a “National Emergency” that was made Friday afternoon at a Rose Garden press conference by President Trump as the United States tries to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus across the country.
“As of this morning, about 400 Air and Army National Guard professionals in six states – Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, New York, Rhode Island and Washington – are providing personnel in support of civil authority at the direction of their governors in response to COVID-19. As other states are requested to support civil authorities, those numbers will change rapidly. By the end of the day we expect that number to approach 1,000,” spokeswoman April Cunningham of the National Guard Bureau said over the noon hour on Friday, adding that so far “Thirty-three states have declared emergencies in response to the spread of COVID-19.”
Each state’s National Guard units act independently under the control of their state’s governor and earlier this week the governors of New York, Rhode Island, Florida and Puerto Rico called up approximately 50 Air and Army National Guard professionals to address COVID-19 responses and placed them on “State Active Duty” which is an on-duty status this is paid for by the individual states.
At Present, National Guard Units are Being Used on a State-By-State Basis to Address COVID-19 Containment Efforts
So far New York state has activated 378 of its National Guard members to help support the 1-mile “containment zone” around an outbreak in New Rochelle, New York where at least 100 people were infected with the virus after a Manhattan attorney contracted it and subsequently passed it family members and other close contacts of his near his home in Westchester County, a wealthy suburban area just north of New York City. Those New York National Guard troops have been disinfecting and cleaning common public spaces around New Rochelle, including schools, churches and synagogues, and providing transportation to nurses and health care providers who are collecting and delivering medical samples for coronavirus testing.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has authorized the call-up of as many as 2,000 Georgia National Guard troops whose first assignment will be the help 31 passengers from Georgia who had been on the ill-fated Grand Princess cruise ship and who have been under quarantine at the Dobbins Reserve Air Base return to their homes so they continue to be self-isolated there.
In California, a 10-person Medical Augmentation Team from the California National Guard will be activated today in order to provide “emergency pre-hospital stabilization response” for up to 24 patients around the clock.
Florida has sent one member of their National Guard to help provide logistical support to the Florida Emergency Operations Center.
Five members of the Iowa National Guard are assisting the state with operations at the Iowa Joint Operations Center.
Three members of the Louisiana National Guard are now providing assistance for COVID-19 planning at the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
Rhode Island currently has 10 Rhode Island National Guard members providing liaison serives to the Rhode Island Department of Health.
Washington state has assigned four Washington National Guard members to support planning efforts within the Washington State Emergency Management Division for up to 45 days.
Maryland’s Governor has activated Maryland’s National Guard with the exact response still to be determined.
The National Guard Bureau’s Operation Center Is Increasing Staffing and Hours and Is Prepared to Coordinate Support Between the States
“The National Guards of 54 states, territories and the District of Colombia have a very deep bench of around 450,000 experienced Air and Army National Guard professionals that they are able to draw from,” U.S. Army Master Sgt. W. Michael Houk, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau told Heavy this week. “Though we are monitoring closely, National Guard Bureau is not currently tasked to support any state-to-state requests for assistance regarding COVID-19. Should it be required, we are postured to play a critical role in COVID-19 response alongside officials from both state and lead federal agencies.”
“The National Guard is fully involved at the local, state, and federal level in the planning and execution of the nation’s response to COVID-19,” spokeswoman April Cunningham said, stressing “In times of emergency, the National Guard Bureau serves as a federal coordinating agency should a state require assistance from the National Guard of another state…Guard units frequently train side-by-side with state and local emergency responders, making them well-suited for domestic operations.”
“At the national level, Guard members are training personnel on COVID-19 response, identifying and preparing National Guard facilities for use as isolation housing, and compiling state medical supply inventories. In addition, the National Guard has taken precautionary measures by cancelling events, exercises and conferences,” Cunningham noted. “The National Guard’s first priority is to protect our people while saving lives. National Guard personnel will provide assistance to the states that include logistical support, disinfection and cleaning, conducting transportation of medical personnel, call center support, and meal delivery.”
FEMA Announced They Will Meet Up to 75 Percent of the Costs of State and Local COVID-19 Emergency Response Measures
Immediately after President Trump declared a nationwide emergency pursuant to the “Stafford Act” on Friday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency released a statement saying “This increases federal support to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in its role as the lead federal agency for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response. As a result of the President’s decisive, unprecedented action, FEMA is directed to assist state, local, tribal, territorial governments and other eligible entities with the health and safety actions they take on behalf of the American public. Today’s declaration does not make direct financial assistance available to individuals.”
The president has the sole authority to declare a national emergency under the provisions of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act and, once he does so, it makes available up to $54 billion dollars in FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to state and local governments. Although President Trump has declared a number of national emergencies in recent years, this is the first such declaration for a public health emergency since President Barack Obama’s 2009 declaration over the H1N1 “Swine Flu” outbreak.
“The emergency declaration does not change measures authorized under other federal statutes and HHS remains the lead federal agency directing the federal response to COVID-19,” the FEMA statement continued. “FEMA actions will be in support of HHS and in coordination with state, tribal and territorial governments. Eligible emergency protective measures taken at the direction or guidance of public health officials in response to this emergency, and not supported by the authorities of another federal agency, will be reimbursed strictly under the FEMA Public Assistance program. FEMA assistance will be provided at a 75 percent Federal cost share. Reimbursable activities typically include emergency protective measures such as the activation of State Emergency Operations Centers, National Guard costs, law enforcement and other measures necessary to protect public health and safety.”