What the US military could and couldn’t do in the fight against coronavirus

Many pundits and politicians have been asking why the US military isn’t doing more to help combat the spread of the coronavirus in the US.

On Sunday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on President Trump to mobilize the military to help deal with the outbreak. This follows after former Vice President Joe Biden said the Department of Defense should be planning to deploy. 

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“The Department of Defense should be planning now, should have been planning to prepare for the potential deployment of the resources provided, medical facility capacity and logistic support that only they can do,” Biden said Thursday.

Defense officials say their first priority is maintaining the health, welfare and “readiness” of the 1.36 million members of the active duty military, as well as the 800,000 members of the National Guard and Reservists in addition to some 730,000 civilian employees in the Department of Defense.

And while some National Guard units have been involved in helping with logistics and planning at the state level, the US military’s capacity to provide medical support is limited.

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By the numbers: There are 51 military hospitals compared to some 6,000 civilian hospitals nationwide, according to one US defense official, meaning the US military has only about 1% of the nation’s hospital capacity. 

Military hospitals admit some 200,000 patients annually as compared to civilian hospitals which admit about 36 million. 

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