The Defense Department is taking action to protect people, safeguard critical national security missions and capabilities and support the whole-of-government approach to confronting the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, DoD spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said Tuesday.
Combatant commanders have the authority to take measures to protect personnel from exposure to the virus, Hoffman said during a press briefing at the Pentagon. That may mean modifying, postponing or canceling some training, he said.
At the Pentagon, one of the world’s largest office buildings, Hoffman said educational materials are being distributed and good hygiene practices are being reinforced. The visitor entry process is under evaluation, he said, and people are practicing social distancing for meetings and briefings.
Across the force, three active-duty Service members, one each in South Korea, Europe and the U.S.; four family members, a government civilian and a contractor have so far been diagnosed with COVID-19, said Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs, the Joint Staff surgeon, during the briefing. “All are doing well at this point,” he said.
The department is taking these precautions because COVID-19 is a new virus and scientists are still learning about how easy it is to spread, Friedrichs said.
All 13 of DoD’s clinical labs can run the necessary tests to determine whether a person has COVID-19, the general noted.
“The Department of Defense has had plans for dealing with disease outbreaks like this for years,” Friedrichs said, adding that each base has a coordinated plan with local authorities.
Friedrichs later told reporters that the No. 1 thing he’d like to know about COVID-19 is whether it’s seasonal. “Because if it is seasonal, then it will start to burn out in the next couple of months,” he said.
“And that buys us a little bit more time until the fall when it comes back. And that means that we have more time to work on medical countermeasures and vaccines, and all the other things that we have for the flu.”
Editor’s Note: Information regarding COVID-19 changes often. This article is the most recent Department of Defense news available to the Eagle at the time of publication. We encourage our readers to visit defense.gov often for the latest information on military efforts to combat COVID-19.