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In order to ship the much-needed equipment, the Department of Defense needs to be given a place where it can be sent by civilian authorities who need to decide where the items are most needed.
“There was a discussion with HHS about where to send them. And then they said: Hey wait, we’re trying to take a look at the required demand and so we were asked to just wait while just a bit and I won’t speak for them, but we were able to deploy 2,000, “said Lieutenant General Giovanni Tuck.
Tuck said he had no details about the HHS decisions, but added that “we didn’t provide any because we were asked from last night to keep only those we have and then we’ll push them, when they’re ready for them. “
He emphasized that 1,000 fans will be fully ready for shipping as soon as the Pentagon gets a destination for shipping. The other 1,000 can also be assembled and shipped within days of receiving the order he specified.
The uncertainty arises from the fact that health experts continue to say that urgently more respirators and ventilators are needed to cope with the increase in coronavirus patients in hospitals across the country. Doctors have also asked for help related to testing the virus, but a few days after Pentagon officials offered to help in this area, it remains unclear whether they started.
Civilian Pentagon officials have repeatedly said they provide ventilators and five million N-95 respirators. So far, only 1.5 million masks have been sent out by the Pentagon. Another 500,000 are to be dispatched within a few days.
But HHS and FEMA have given DoD no indication of when or where exactly they want the other three million articles.
CNN asked HHS for a comment.
Defense Minister Mark Esper told reporters at a briefing on March 17 that the department was ready to distribute up to 2,000 ventilators “as needed”.
“We are ready to distribute up to 2,000 usable ventilators to HHS for use as needed. These machines differ from their civil counterparts and require special training for operations. However, we strive to meet HHS requirements for each in every possible way, “he said at the time.
“The department has also made our 14 certified coronavirus test laboratories available to non-DOD employees. For this purpose, we will shortly be offering two additional laboratories. We hope that this will provide overcapacity for the civilian population,” added Esper.
During this briefing, Esper admitted that “if you look at the number of people projected who may need ventilators, 2,000 won’t do much about it, but we can offer what we have.”
In addition, it remains unclear whether the Pentagon tested civilian patients for the virus more than two weeks after Esper offered it.
“We cannot fully utilize our capacities in our laboratories around the world,” said Brig. General Paul Friedrichs said at a Pentagon press conference last week that the Department of Defense currently operates 16 laboratories that can perform the test.
“We have not received an RFA from HHS, a request for support that I know of,” he said. “But we have capacities in some of our laboratories. We identified that with HHS.”
A few hours after the Pentagon announced that it had received no request for assistance with testing, HHS informed CNN that it had since made a “first request for assistance” from the Department of Defense.
“HHS initially asked DOD for support, and both departments are evaluating the ability to become a partner in testing,” the HHS statement said.
CNN has requested an update from the Pentagon, but has not yet received a response.
Meanwhile, the military continues to deal with an increasing number of positive cases in its ranks.
By Tuesday morning, 716 US service members had tested positive for the virus. and the first military death related to Covid-19 was announced on Monday.
The growing number of cases is the latest sign that the virus has become a national security challenge.
In addition to spreading within the armed forces, US commanders around the world had previously expressed concerns that, according to several defense officials, there is a risk that military readiness will deteriorate if allies close borders and travel.
Nevertheless, the Department of Defense said in a press release on Monday that it “took dramatic mitigation measures to protect service members, civilians, contractors, and their families from coronavirus.”
“This includes the obligation to distance ourselves socially, to end certain work and training activities and to provide tests and support for our community members.”