Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced on Tuesday and reiterated on Wednesday the Department of Defense will be giving the Department of Health and Human Services over 5 million N95 masks and 2,000 ventilators from their stockpile so they can be distributed.
Ventilators are in high demand as COVID-19, also known as the Wuhan coronavirus, is a respiratory illness and makes breathing hard in severe cases. The DoD will also be giving out other personnel protective equipment.
"The first one million masks will be made available immediately. Next we are prepared to distribute to H.H.S. up to 2,000 deployable ventilators for use as needed. These machines are different from there civilian equivalents and require special training to operate, but we are committed to supporting H.S. S.’s requirements in any way we can. Third, the department has made our 14 certified Coronavirus testing labs available to test non-D.o.D. personnel as well and we will soon offer additional labs for that purpose. We hope this will provide excess capacity to the civilian population. Finally, we are considering activating National Guard and reserve units to assist states with planning, logistics and medical support as needed," Esper said.
"In my conversations with governors and members of Congress about D.o.D.’s resources, I have made it clear we will continue to support the administration’s comprehensive efforts and the country every step of the way while ensuring our nation’s security remains the top priority of the Department of Defense," he continued. "I recognize our decisions impact service members and their families and I want them to know we’re all in this together. If we can dramatically reduce the spread of the virus over the next 15 days, together we can help restore public health and the economy and — and hasten a return to our normal way of life."
The National Guard Bureau revealed on Monday more than 1,560 Guard members in 22 states have been activated on duty in response to the coronavirus, with many more states spinning up their National Guard units since then.