DoD Support to Date
DoD COVID-19 operations began by providing lodging support to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for Department of State (DoS) officials evacuated from Wuhan, China. The first repatriation flight from Wuhan arrived at March Air Reserve Base, California on Jan. 29, 2020.
On Feb. 1, 2020, the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) directed USNORTHCOM to execute the Global Pandemic Plan 3551-13. In response to this direction, USNORTHCOM and the Office of the Secretary of Defense issued health protection guidance for DoD forces and began to respond to requests for assistance in the United States.
Shortly after the SECDEF’s direction, on Feb. 15, 2020, HHS announced the repatriation of U.S. citizens aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Approximately 400 passengers returned and were subject to a 14-day quarantine. Similarly, on March 9, 2020, the Grand Princess cruise ship docked at the Port of Oakland and 1,989 passengers were taken to five evacuation support bases – Camp Ashland, Nebraska; Joint Base San Antonio, Texas; MCAS Miramar, California; Travis Air Force Base, California; and March Air Reserve Base, California.
Under the direction of USNORTHCOM, the USNS Mercy arrived in Los Angeles March 27, 2020, where they treated 77 non-COVID patients and sent military medical personnel to community locations to assist local medical staff. Some of those personnel stayed after the ship departed May 15, 2020. The USNS Comfort arrived at the New York Harbor on March 30, 2020 and treated 182 patients before departing on April 30, 2020.
Additionally, as of April 6, 2020, DoD provided more than five million N95 masks to HHS, and then acting SECDEF Dr. Mark T. Esper approved the provision of an additional five million N95 masks.
As other communities experienced surges in COVID cases and hospitalizations, additional cities and states made requests for federal government support.
Beginning April 2020, USNORTHCOM’s Joint Force Land Component Command (JFLCC), U.S. Army North (ARNORTH), oversaw military medical teams who established or augmented alternate care sites at large facilities like convention centers in nine states to assist the local and state agencies treat medical patients as hospitals became overwhelmed. As support continued, the JFLCC learned through feedback from the state, local and hospital staffs the best way to expand hospital capability and capacity to these communities-in-need was through integration or augmentation of medical personnel into existing hospitals.
Since April 2020 to present, the JFLCC has coordinated three iterations of direct military medical personnel support to at least 103 hospitals in 81 cities in 25 states and the Navajo Nation. This support was provided by approximately 5,100 military medical personnel, broken into separate teams for each hospital and has included doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, behavioral health specialists, and other specialties as needed.
In February 2021, as the COVID pandemic continued and vaccines became available, FEMA and the states requested DoD to provide support to 48 community vaccination sites in 42 cities across 25 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. From February to June 2021, approximately 5,100 military medical and support personnel assisted with providing approximately 5 million vaccinations to communities-in-need.
While support to the vaccination centers has currently ceased, support to hospitals and our local, state, and federal partners remains ongoing. The joint DoD effort currently includes 15 teams working in 10 states – one in Arizona, one in Indiana, four in Michigan, two in Minnesota, one in New Hampshire, one in New Mexico, one in New York, two in Pennsylvania, one in Wisconsin, and one in Ohio.
U.S. Army North, under U.S. Northern Command’s oversight, provides operational command of the teams.