Pentagon is 'fully confident' military can withstand threat of coronavirus: EspercloseVideo
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Defense Secretary Mark Esper said a coronavirus protection plan is being “finalized” for DoD employees and service members and will be presented to him next week.
Esper said he was “fully confident” the Pentagon would be able to perform its functions in the event coronavirus comes to the nation’s capital.
“We have a lot of capabilities in this building [the Pentagon],” Esper told reporters. “Our National Military Command Center has the capability to go for weeks at a time if they have to be locked down inside the building if we have some type of outbreak.”
1 US MILITARY MEMBER, 5 US SERVICE MEMBERS' DEPENDENTS TEST POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS
Esper said he spent 90 minutes Thursday morning discussing coronavirus protection measures with senior leaders in the Pentagon, including military commanders from around the world.
“I was assured by them they feel confident that they have all the authorities that they need and we’re continuing to push more and more resources their way as they need them,” Esper said. “They are fairly in good shape at this point in time.”
The update came as news broke yesterday that one U.S. military member serving in South Korea and five dependents of various service members in that country had contracted the novel coronavirus. Esper said that U.S. Forces Korea Army Gen. Robert Abrams had developed a “good model” to stave off the virus where 28,500 U.S. troops are based.
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Esper said Abrams had his soldiers do simple things like wipe down “doorknobs and copy machines and stuff like that to prevent the spread” as well as changing “social interaction.”
“We also have to look at travel,” Esper said. “Those will be coming up to me next week.”
Pentagon officials admitted yesterday there “probably will be some more cases” than the current six but said the numbers of infected individuals is “very small."
The Pentagon says they are following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control to test other service members for the virus, although it remains unclear how many tests are being administered.
The virus infects the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, and Pentagon health officials said they believe most of the U.S. military is not at risk.
“What we are trying to do is not scare people by saying everybody is at risk because that is not true,” one official said.
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So far, worldwide there have been at least 95,270 confirmed coronavirus cases and 3,280 deaths. Iran has been particularly hard-hit, with at least 92 confirmed deaths from the virus and at least 23 members of Iranian parliament have contracted the disease. The U.S. has tens of thousands of troops stationed in neighboring Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.
Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson and Vandana Rambaran contributed to this report.