Army officials hold a Defense Department news briefing on COVID-19 efforts

By U.S. ArmyMarch 27, 2020

Presenters: Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy; Army Chief of Staff General James C. McConville; Lieutenant General R. Scott Dingle, Surgeon General And Commanding General, U.S. Army Medical Command; Lieutenant General Charles A. Flynn, Director Of Operations And Plans, Headquarters Department of the Army; Lieutenant General Dan Hokanson, Director, Army National Guard Bureau; Sergeant Major Of The Army Tony Grinston


ARMY SECRETARY RYAN D. MCCARTHY: Hi, everybody. (inaudible). Punctuality. Man, right up to the (inaudible).


SEC. MCCARTHY: That's right. We got everybody? Okay. Do we have a -- we -- do we have folks on the phone again?

STAFF: Yes, sir. We have 14 people on the phone.

SEC. MCCARTHY: Okay. So I'll just let you know who's here: Ryan McCarthy, secretary of the Army, and General James McConville, chief of staff of the Army; Lieutenant General Scotty Dingle, the surgeon general; Lieutenant General Charlie Flynn, director of operations and plans, HQDA; Lieutenant General Dan Hokanson, the director of Army National Guard Bureau; and Sergeant Major of the Army Tony Grinston.

So what we'll do is the chief will make some opening remarks, and then we'll open it up to your questions. I think we have a hard stop at 14:00, right? Okay.

Chief, over to you.


So as -- as of this morning, the Army has 288 confirmed cases of COVID-19. A hundred are soldiers, 64 are Department of the Army civilians, 65 are dependents, nine are cadets and 50 are Army contractors.

This week, the secretary of defense signed orders for three Army hospitals to deploy to New York and Washington state. The 531st Hospital for Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and the 9th Hospital from Fort Hood, Texas will deploy to New York City. An advance party is on the ground as I speak. The main body will arrive at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst tomorrow. They will set up at the Javits Center this weekend, and they will be operational for non-COVID patients beginning Monday.

The 627th Hospital from Fort Carson, Colorado will deploy to Seattle. An advance party arrived yesterday evening. They are coordinating with state and local authorities in conducting a site survey of the CenturyLink Field in a state fairground, and a location decision is pending.

Our Army Corps of Engineers is engaged in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, assisting FEMA and state authorities. They are on the ground conducting site assessments for alternate care facilities. Lieutenant General Semonite will provide a detailed press briefing on the Corps Engineers' efforts tomorrow.

Over 10,000 National Guard soldiers are supporting COVID-9 (sic) response efforts in communities in every state across the nation. Their missions include delivering food to communities, supporting local emergency management agencies, providing personal protective equipment to first responders and hospital personnel, providing support to testing facilities, providing transportation for health care workers, cleaning and disinfecting public spaces and staffing call centers to inform the public.

Yesterday, the Army G-1, Lieutenant General Tom Seamands reached out to retired officers, noncommissioned officers and soldiers who have the skills and expertise to assist with our COVID-19 response efforts. This is an involuntary -- this is a voluntary opportunity for our medical Soldiers for Life to return to the fight if they so choose, especially if they are not currently assisting their local communities. So far, the initial responses have been very, very positive.

Also yesterday, the Army directed all installations to assume Health Protection Condition Level Charlie. HPCOM Charlie includes all previous guidance on personal hygiene, social distancing, disinfecting common areas and having 14 days of supplies on hand. It also gives commanders more authority to restrict access to our installations and limit that access to mission-essential personnel.

Our immediate response forces have assumed HPCOM Delta to remain ready to respond to threats, just like we saw with the 82nd Airborne Division in January.

We are meeting the secretary of defense's intent by protecting the force and supporting the national response effort. We are standing up to prevent, detect and treat COVID-19. This is a tough fight but together, we'll do our part to help the nation win.

(Mr. Secretary ?), your question?

STAFF: We're going to go to a couple on the lines because we've got a quite a few, and then we'll go in the room, okay? So let's go to [inaudible] from Hope ?

Q: Hi, General. Thank you so much for taking my question.

I wanted to ask about the voluntary callout, specifically (inaudible) specific number of retirees to come back. And what is the number of responses you've gotten so far and what is the process if somebody is approved to return for this (inaudible)?

GEN. MCCONVILLE : Well, first of all, we've got -- the G1 is working that. We can get you the exact numbers, but we have had some positive responses. What we're looking for is medical expertise.

And Surgeon General, do you have anything you want to add on that?

LIEUTENANT GENERAL R. SCOTT DINGLE: And then in addition, what we'll do is even though we are getting many volunteers, we then will walk through the process of certification, making sure that all certifications and credentials are straight. Then once we do that, we will plug them into all of our medical treatment facilities as required in support of the mission.

STAFF: Okay, we've got Lita Baldor on the line. Lita?

Q: Yes, I'm here. So I -- just a couple of questions, if I could.

On the volunteer effort, can you give us even a ballpark number of responders so far? And can you talk about how much staffing the field hospitals may strain the actual active duty, and how many more hospitals can you actually -- or do you actually think you're going to be able to get sent out to -- to the country at this point?

And then I have a follow-up.

(UNKNOWN): (GEN. MCCONVILLE) Why don't you take that one, Scott?

GEN. DINGLE: So the -- the general number of a hospital center, which is the headquarters as well as field hospital itself, all the supporting detachments, is roughly around 330 soldiers.

Those soldiers that are assigned to medical treatment facilities, what we call military medically assigned personnel, their primary mission is to support the force. When they are called upon to deploy -- in this case here, to support the whole-of-government, our nation, those medical providers, we look at cross-leveling within the medical command, and then the volunteers that you're talking about is where we also will leverage, in addition to the Army reserves, to fill those holes from the medical treatment facilities so that we can maintain the readiness of our soldiers as well as to the beneficiary population.

GEN. MCCONVILLE (?): And -- and we'll follow up when the exact numbers -- our G1 has that going, but there is -- there's been positive response. We'll get you the exact numbers.

SEC MCCARTHY: Do you have a follow-up, Lita?

Q: Okay, and then -- yeah, and -- and can you just talk a little bit about what type of impact does the stop movement has had on training? And where you stand on training right now?

Thank you.

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Yeah, I'll go ahead and just talk -- talk a little bit about the training on the stop movement, and really on the -- the mission-essential.

Yeah, we're continuing to train mission-essential personnel. But really, what we're trying to do is, we're trying to balance protecting the force so we can protect the nation. And then -- and each commander is -- is taking a look at the critical missions that they have to determine just how much training they have.

But regardless of where we're training, we're putting, in effect, what I would call almost a safety bubble-type mentality. So we're training squads. And you -- really, we're looking at squads and below-type level -- we are keeping social distancing, and we -- when we maneuver a squad, we usually have five meters in between members, just in case, you know, in a -- in a tactical situation, because of the threat.

And -- and in this case there is an visceral threat, but we still need to keep that distance and there is soldiers that need to perform critical functions around the world and they will continue to do that based on the commander's assessment of the threat to the force and the threat to the mission.

STAFF: Okay, we'll do one more call on the line. Sylvie and then we'll get on the room. Sylvie?

Q: Hello, this is Sylvie from AFP. I understand that you had a hearing -- a SASC hearing this morning, and I wanted to know how you did that and did -- was it a video conference? And what -- how did you go? Can you give us an idea?

SEC. MCCARTHY: So what you're referring to -- the -- our Senate Armed Services Committee posture hearing, we submitted our statements for the record and then the committee of jurisdiction, in this case the Senate Armed Services Committee, will then come back with a series of questions so this transaction will be conducted in the digital space.

Q: Oh, okay. So it was not really a -- a -- a hearing?

SEC. MCCARTHY: No, no, no, not in the traditional sense.

SEC. MCCARTHY: Yeah, it was more a paper hearing.

STAFF: Okay, we're going to -- we're going to go to in the room. Tom?

Q: Hi, General. You said 100 soldiers tested positive for the virus. Can you say where they are? Are there clusters at particular bases? How many are in the States, how many are overseas?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Well, I'm not going to get into the exact numbers of where they're at but they're -- they're -- they're pretty much spread out. We have not seen clusters yet.

Q: How many overseas, how many in the States?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: I'll -- I'll need to get -- I don't have that broken down.

Q: And also, the effort in New York, how many beds will you provide with that field hospital -- personnel, as well?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Yeah, the -- as far as -- as far as the beds that are -- that are going to New York and -- you know, they're coming with 284 -- (248 ?) -- but I think what we're going to see happen in -- is -- and this is a good interagency kind of coordination.

You know, they -- they're going into a fixed building, which means we won't be setting up tents. FEMA has the capability to put in place, which they have, you know, hospitals, beds and equipment and they're doing that right now as they speak.

We're still bringing our equipment there cause we want to make sure that we have it but what you're going to see is a good whole of government effort, where, you know, the state is contributing, FEMA is contributing, a -- a lot of the -- the -- the equipment and -- and structure inside the site and then we will be providing personnel to actually staff that hospital and do COVID -- non-COVID 19 type care and that may give us actually more beds as we go forward.

Q: And the staff, how many staff roughly?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Do you -- go ahead, what's that? You want to -- you want to give that, three --

GEN. DINGLE: That's correct, 330.


Q: And the beds you said are 248 roughly?


GEN. MCCONVILLE: 284 -- 284 in that one and the other one has 248. That's what they're -- that's what -- you know, the -- cause we're in -- I -- I don't want to get in the -- you know, as far as the transition between the hospitals but basically that -- that hospital that went-- 284 beds.

And the one that's going out to Seattle will have 248 beds. But again, they'll be beds set up there and how we actually staff the beds, we'll probably see a lot more than that.

SEC. MCCARTHY: Cause what's important for the -- the context of your all's reporting, they can bring that capability and stand it up, but to the Chief's point, falling in a good infrastructure increases your ratio of people that you can take care of.

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Also speed. You know, it's speed. But that's -- you know, when you look at it, we got an order Tuesday, they're on the road Wednesday, they're doing the coordination, you know, and this weekend they're going to be putting people in there and then Monday, we -- we expect to be taking care of patients.

STAFF: Okay. We'll go to Jennifer.

Q: Yes. Did you have a meeting on Monday or earlier this week in which the conclusion was that the Army was not mitigating fast enough for the rise of COVID cases and that you were short of money. There's a report that James Laporta put out that has what looks like an official document from that meeting.

I just wanted to confirm with you that in fact took place and that that was an accurate report?

SEC. MCCARTHY: I'm not familiar with the reporting. I'd probably need more context. We're constantly making assessments of the resources that we need for -- to -- to sustain this effort. I think we -- you'll see in the supplemental bill we have a requested increase to our efforts of prevention, detection and treatment to sustain this over the long term but I'm not familiar with that reporting.

Q: And -- and General Abrams was probably the first to have to deal with COVID out in South Korea. When did he put up the call to Army Headquarters, if you will, and when were you aware of what was going to be needed for various bases and did you take decisions to lock down other formations to protect the Army?

SEC. MCCARTHY: So I'll say a couple of things and maybe we can get General Flynn up here. The Army set up a -- a -- a Crisis Action Team I think on January 26th -- right, Charlie? And if you -- both the Chief and I traveled to South Korea in February and that's when we started to learn more about this. I think that's really important to appreciate.

Over time, we've -- it's taken a lot of time to learn about this issue because so little information came out of China on the front end of this process. General Abrams is truly the -- the -- the pacing item for the Department. His -- his tactics, techniques and procedures that he and his command have developed have made a tremendous difference for the Department -- you know, and along with some incredibly strong leadership from that team.

So I think Charlie, you want to fill in some of the -- the blanks there but that's the -- the rough timeline.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL CHARLES A. FLYNN: So, Jennifer, I would say to the -- the Secretary mentioned there, I think what's important was obviously it was breaking out in -- in Asia, in China and General Abrams, we were watching what was going on.

So when those indications happened, because we have, you know, a lot of Army soldiers and families in South Korea and our Eighth Army headquarters is over there, that came to us in the -- in the G3 and at the time, like we traditionally do, we -- we stand up what's called a Crisis Action Team just to track and monitor what's happening.

And we've been doing that since late January because of what we were seeing in Korea and that helped us understand, you know, now better because as the Secretary and the Chief have mentioned, we've been watching this for a while.


SEC. MCCARTHY: Sorry, go ahead.

GEN. MCCONVILLE: If I could just add the -- you know, the other thing we -- we really started doing is looking at our exercises around the world. We looked at the type of training that we were doing in Asia, we also took a look at Defender '20 and said okay, which exercises do we want to reduce the scope of to give us the capability to limit exposure? And we did that.

SEC. MCCARTHY: Cause, you know, traveling in that part of the world in February was incredibly interesting. When -- you know, I -- I was a week before the Chief -- Philippines, Thailand -- and how little they knew and they were on the front end of this storm.

And then we started putting some of these data points together and trying to string it together over the course of February. It's just -- it's been a very, very complex issue that's taken time to get the data points together.

STAFF: Okay, so we're going to go on the line again. We have Haley Britzky, Task & Purpose. Haley?

Q: Yes, thank you. I actually don't have a question, it was answered earlier but thank you.

STAFF: Okay, great. David from CBS?

Q: Yup, two questions. One is just a numbers question.

You've been talking about beds and personnel for these field hospitals. You say initially at least, is this going to be the personnel falling in on the facilities that are being built at the Javits Center and at the final location that's chosen in Seattle?

So in total, how many personnel, medical personnel is the Army sending to New York City? And how many medical personnel is the Army sending to Seattle?

And then I've got a second question.

GEN. FLYNN: Okay, so the -- the hospital personnel going to New York is roughly 650 people. And a similar -- a similar number, maybe a little bit less, to Seattle. But 600-plus.

I think it's important to point out what the -- what General McConville was discussing earlier, that those -- those personnel are assigned to those hospitals, and they're going to go into this -- for example, the Javits Center, and the whole-of-government approach is that they're going to put a couple thousand beds in there.

But what they're really doing is they're taking pressure off the local and state health care system and moving patients into that facility so that we can help those patients because they're still going to have people with broken legs and car accidents and everything else that will need care for.

Therefore, it just takes a lot of pressure off the local and state health care system to do that. So the idea here with the Corps of Engineers, with FEMA and with the state and local officials is to work in collaboration so that we can provide skilled medical professionals to take some pressure off the local and state health care system with our Army professionals.

STAFF: David, do you have any --


STAFF: Go ahead.

Q: My second question is this issue of putting troops up on the Canadian border. It's been reported and confirmed that there are discussions about that. And it's obviously a diplomatic issue, but diplomacy aside, what -- what would that operation look like? Would that be active duty, would that be National Guard? How many, et cetera?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: We -- we -- (inaudible) doesn't have any --


GEN. MCCONVILLE: Yeah, that -- we -- I think that would be best answered by NORTHCOM. We do not have any directed planning tasks on that yet.

Q: Okay, thank you.

STAFF: Okay, so we're going to go to Ashley Roque from Jane's. Ashley?

Q: Yes, hi, thank you. I had a question and then a follow-up.

With the notice that went out last night of this stop movement order, what impact is that going to have on soldiers who have already deployed for DEFENDER-Europe 2020?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Well, what we're going to see is for the -- for the soldiers that deploy, I mean, it's a 60-day stop movement order so some of those soldiers that would have been coming back, they are not going to come back, their tours will be extended. And the soldiers that were getting ready to go, they are staying here and limiting their exposure.

And then the commanders in each of the areas, they have exception to policy authority if they have to have someone to get back or they need someone to get over there, we will work the details on that.

Q: Okay, great, thanks.

And then I also wanted to ask on the defense industry base, last week, you guys had mentioned you were in talks. And some of the states had differing issues, and the unions. After a week, is there any other clarity on the situation on possible slowdowns and delays?

And have you discussed potential penalties with the companies for not being able to deliver on time?

SEC. MCCARTHY: I see, you're -- you're referencing existing -- like weapons systems, you're not asking about Defense Production Act authorities for -- in response to the crisis, just to clarify?

Q: No, no. No, sir.

SEC. MCCARTHY: So Dr. Jette and General Murray have done an assessment of the defense industrial base. We have many contractors that are still reporting to work and they're bending metal and continuing to progress. What we're doing is working with the state because it really is a state-by-state-related issue.

If there's a manufacturer in Florida that has a footprint or has parts of their manufacturing division are in like New York or Connecticut and others, you have to work through some of these issues about their employees traveling from state to state.

So what we could do is we could make Dr. Jette and General Murray available, and kind of walk you through this very complex issue, but we've been pretty blessed of how these manufacturers are stepping up and continue putting the measures in place so that their employees can continue to work and head down that modernization path.

Q: Thank you very much, and that would be great.

STAFF: Okay, we'll do one more.

Ashley Tressel, Ashley?

Q: Yes, thank you.

Just wondering about -- we heard a few of the training exercises have been canceled. What immediate effects to readiness are you seeing and what do you expect over the next I guess few months?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Well, I think what we're going to see is, you know, it's still -- it's only been a couple of days, so to speak, on some of the training exercises. We'll -- we'll do an assessment over the next couple of weeks.

I mean, ideally, we want to keep people back to doing the missions that they need to do. They're still able to train at the lower levels, exercising the proper procedures to limit exposure. But, you know, we certainly are going to be doing assessments as we move forward over the next couple weeks.

STAFF: Okay, we'll get Tara?

Q: Thank you. Tara Copp with McClatchy.

Can you tell us how many soldiers total have been tested? And how you're getting test kits out to forward-deployed soldiers, say in Afghanistan? How those results are coming back.

And then secondly, can you talk about, for the immediate response forces, what does going up to HPCON Delta mean in practical terms?

GEN MCCONVILLE: I will -- I will get back to you, okay?

GEN. DINGLE: So in general when it comes to the soldiers, we've roughly conducted almost about 5,000 tests. In support of the commanders in the field down range in combat areas, we are leaning forward to give them and deliver that capability in a matter of days to support their missions forward.

Q: How are you getting those tests to them? And like, for example in Afghanistan, there'd been reports that soldiers were not able to get tests and there were some concerns that there might be a number of cases out there.

GEN. DINGLE: So for those that are forward-deployed, are supported by Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. So those tests are shipped to that location. Normally, we have about a 24-hour turnaround time on those tests.

Q: Okay. And then --


GEN. MCCONVILLE: Let -- let me take the one on Delta. I mean, really, what the intent is, is you know, we have forces that are ready to go, just like you saw in January when the 82nd went on.

So when we say Delta, what we really mean is we want them to limit exposure. We want them pretty much doing only the -- the essential task that they need to conduct. That means they're pretty much home or they're doing what they need to do at work, they're not out being exposed to other -- other people. They can work out, they can take care of themselves.

But again, what we really want them to do is limit their exposure to anyone else, and almost create a safety bubble around themselves. And that's what the technique that General Abrams used. You create safety bubbles, and you make sure that all the people inside the bubble are -- are -- do not have the virus, and you -- you keep that separation and you -- you can protect the force. So that's what we're trying to do with them. You know, they -- they're ready to go, and we don't want, you know, one person to -- to expose others and that -- and that to reduce our readiness.

Q: Just two more follow-ups. So the Fort Campbell soldiers that are going to the Javits Center, can you tell me how many, and I -- if I missed the specific unit. And then secondly, of the 5,000 tests that you've run, was it because there were symptoms, or was it precautionary for a particular unit? How -- you know, how did you choose those -- who got tested?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: I'm going to let the Surgeon General take that to General Dingle.


GEN. MCCONVILLE: Do you want Charlie to take the first one?

SEC. MCCARTHY: Charlie, you take the first one; Scotty takes the second one.

GEN. FLYNN: So -- so the hospital at Fort Campbell is roughly 350 people, but that, again, in New York, that's two hospitals that are going up there, so it's going to be, you know, 650, 700ish.

GEN. DINGLE: Then the tests we're following the CDC guidance: symptoms, and then the medical professionals, again, what he ascertains when he looks at those symptoms and sees that, "Well, maybe I have to do a test." That's what occurred.

STAFF: Okay, so we'll -- we'll go to Barbara, and then we'll go back on the phone lines. Barbara?

Q: General McConville, I wanted to ask you on the operational side, I don't think I understood some of the previous answers. Isn't it the case that FRAG 1314 actually says, "Current mitigation efforts have been insufficient"? I believe that language is in there. At least, that's what I read in there. And I would like to know what led you -- the Army to the conclusion that current mitigation is insufficient.

And along those lines, a really clear explanation: For several days, the Army -- other services, but we're talking Army -- has said you trust local commanders to take care of when there's to be large groups, not having large groups. But you continue to get these reports of large groups, of formations of PTs and significant numbers of people. So with this now-increased effort, is there anything that you have mandated not happened? You say you want the kind of bubble that General Abrams had, but he was incredibly strict. There will not be. Is the Army there yet? Are -- what are you prohibiting? If --


Q: But why did you say -- why did the Army say that current mitigation is insufficient? What led you to that conclusion?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Well, I think what led us to that conclusion is we're -- we're seeing a -- well, what I would say is response to the threat. And when you look around the country, we see, you know, the virus, and we look at -- we -- we see it's started to increase around the country. So what we're trying to do is put the appropriate measures in place to protect the force. And each -- each of these commanders is -- is doing a trade-off. They -- they know they have a wartime mission that they have to train for. They also know they need to protect the force or they're not going to be ready when -- when they're called.

So what we've been doing is watching, you know, the threat, so to speak, and as the threat has become more prevalent, we are ramping up the procedures, and we're also checking and getting back briefs from commanders and making sure they understand the guidance, as far as how they limit exposure, and we're taking some of that risk off them. So we're -- we're trying to give them guidance on when they -- you know, if -- like -- like we said, we put out some -- some feedback on, hey, you know, we don't think you should, you know -- we're going to tell them, "You shouldn't be having these large-type formations. You shouldn't be doing things like townhalls and bringing people together.

And -- and we have some commanders that are -- that are -- we have -- you know, we have a large organization and they are implementing those procedures as we speak.

Q: So when you say you've looked at American society and you saw the trend --


Q: -- what -- what are you learning within the Army? What in that trend -- do you have trend analysis that tells you it may increase significantly in the -- or to some extent in the coming days in -- in the U.S. military?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Well, we think that if we do not limit exposure -- and having talked to commanders like General Abrams and General Cloutier, who have been in what some would call very, you know, tough spots, or hotspots that were as prevalent. We've really been going to school and, quite frankly, getting advice from them on where we should be in the spectrum, giving the threat we're seeing, and we think we applied the appropriate measures for where we're at.

Q: Could you just finish your thought, though, when you say, "If you do not limit exposure"?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Right. I think if we -- if we, you know, if -- what we want to do is protect the force by limiting exposure.

Q: And you think more needs to be done?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Yeah, I think -- I think -- I think we need to do more to limit exposure, especially for those who are not doing mission-essential tasks. So -- and that's -- that's -- that's what we're really saying right now, is, you know, is -- when we look at our commands, we say, "Do you -- do you really have to do this task that may increase the risk to our soldiers? Or if you have to do that task, then how can you make it a little safer?" You see us standing six feet apart as we move. You know, we're -- we're doing social distance, and when they're doing -- you know, they still need to be -- to do physical fitness, but don't do it in formation. You still need to train on our aircraft, but make sure the people that are training together, you keep the numbers small, and this is how you limit the exposure.

Q: Can I just have one very quick one?

(UNKNOWN): Sure.

Q: Asking you, as a member of the Joint Chiefs and the Army, which often relies on other services for combat assistance in -- out in the field. It's a remarkable day. The aircraft carrier Teddy Roosevelt basically out of commission in Guam because, as you know, they have now had a number of cases. They're pulling them to Guam. They're going to test the entire crew aboard the carrier. Long time since an aircraft carrier in this country was out of commission for any type of so-called enemy reason. As a member of the Joint Chiefs, what does that say to the chiefs about the scope of this threat, that it could take a carrier out of commission, a carrier your forces could need?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Well, I -- I think all the chiefs are wrestling with the -- this -- you know, the same issue or same challenges. They -- they want to protect the force, but at the same time, they -- they know they have a mission to protect, and -- and -- and that's the balance. And so you know, even on -- and I -- I -- again, I -- I'd defer that to Admiral Gilday, as far as what you do on a ship, or what we're doing in our posts to protect soldiers. But it's almost that you want to create bubbles and keep a -- a small amount of people in that bubble because if one person comes up with the virus, then you -- you don't get into that exponential growth that we see when -- if -- if people are touching a whole bunch of people.

So from where we sit, the best thing we can do is keep the exposure or the circle that people run into very, very small, and we kind of like the squad as an example. It's -- it's less -- you know, it's -- about 10 -- 10 people less. You keep -- you keep -- you -- you keep your -- your circles very, very small, and that's how you flatten the curve.

STAFF: Okay, so we're going to go to the phone, and I've got a couple more questions. We have Jack from Foreign Policy. Jack, are you on the line?

Q: Hey, I don't have a question at this time.

STAFF: Okay, we've got Mandy from National Defense Magazine.

Q: Hi. I don't have a question either. Thank you.

STAFF: Okay, I'm going to try one more -- Shawn from Yahoo? And then I'll go back here.

Q: Hi -- hi. Thank you, gentlemen, for doing this.

The -- both the last time you -- you did the -- this sort of press conference and -- and today, you've highlighted what General Abrams in Korea and General Cloutier in Italy have done.

I was wondering if you could talk in a little more detail about what the keys to their success have been and to what extent those practices are transferable to both A, installations in the United States and -- and B, civilian communities in the United States?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Well, I think, you know, one of the things that I discussed was -- was how do you limit exposure? And what General Abrams did -- is because he controls, you know, the military posts and he controls who comes on and who comes off, you're in a much better position to -- to -- to put in measures that -- that allow people to be tested coming out, they're -- they're asked questions when they come on the post, they're -- you know, they -- it -- they have a kind of a triage where they can check temperatures and -- and then if someone does get the virus, they quickly determine who they've seen and what they've done and they put those people in quarantine.

And -- and again, as I've talked to General Abrams he just reinforces to me is the best you can do to keep the bubble -- the safety bubble and limit exposure, the better off you're going to be. It's -- it's much -- and he's told me, it's much more challenging in the United States because there's things that still have to be done.

We have soldiers that have a mission, they've got to continue to train, they still have to do combat operations. And so, you know -- but what you're really doing is mitigating risk and that's what we're trying to do here.

STAFF: Okay, so we'll go to Tom.

Q: I -- I just wanted to stay on General Abrams for a second because everyone points to him as he's the guy -- I think he had one case -- one positive case, correct?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: He's -- he's had a few more.


GEN. MCCONVILLE: He's had a couple more now.

Q: Secretary Esper says there were lessons learned from General Abrams. So I'm wondering, looking back, why didn't everybody do what General Abrams did? Is it because at that time you maybe thought it was localized in Asia and we didn't think it was a threat in the United States? Is it it was so stringent what he did, it would be hard if not impossible to do the same thing in all Army posts, let's say in the United States?

Just walk through what your thinking was back then -- and a lot of people say "well why didn't everybody do what Abrams did?"

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Well, I think -- I think -- you want to take -- take that one?

GEN. FLYNN: So, Tom, I think what I would say is again, we were watching it and we were monitoring it but I think when it jumped into Europe, really, right, because, I mean, that's where it migrated to first, sort of, and then reporting out of the Middle East, always challenging, right?

So I think the fact that when it was on those two continents, if you will, then -- then, really back to General McConville and the Secretary's point earlier, we had a major deployment going on into Europe called Defender '20.

That was when we started to think hey, wait a minute, you know, we've got forces going forward into Europe, Europe's going not in a positive direction, we had ships pulling into port, we had ships pulling out of ports out of here and I think at that point, the senior leaders in the Army said "hey, we need to change some directions here in the States because we're introducing soldiers into exercises that could in fact be infected because it was getting worse in Europe."

So the Chief and the Secretary made a decision to halt, if you will, the Defender '20 so we could sort of stem that tide. And then I think that was really -- that was really the -- the point where we became thoughtful about what we needed to do here in the States.

Q: So the bottom line is when Abrams was dealing with it, you thought it was maybe more localized, right, and then it kind of jumped to Europe, and you're like, we have a real problem on our hands. Is that right?

SEC. MCCARTHY: Just, you know, we -- the Chief and I both had the advantage of seeing General Abrams face-to-face in early, mid-February. And then in going to the Philippines and Thailand and you had a very small number of cases in those countries, they -- how little those governments knew.

When we both got back home, we started to look at putting more time against it to better understand the problem set. And the point that General Flynn made, once Europe really started lighting up, that's when you saw this was a virus that was just morphing very quickly.

Q: -- you're saying it's at that point you didn't know how bad it was going to get until it went to Europe?

SEC. MCCARTHY: There was not enough data to really make a determination at that point.

Q: But why weren't orders given two weeks ago to shut down bases in Korea, the bubbles on bases like General Abrams did, in the continental U.S.?

SEC. MCCARTHY: With respect -- I mean, just to -- you're talking about the speed of the decision-making or?

Q: The orders from above. I mean, it's been very much at commanders discretion, it's been localized efforts, very inconsistent across the continental U.S. It's hard to understand if -- when you became aware in Europe and after South Korea's experience that you wouldn't have ordered all of the commanders to do what General Abrams and General Cloutier had done?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Well, we still -- we still have a mission, we still have -- you know, we still have a combat mission to protect the nation, we've still got to keep the -- the force ready. And, you know, -- we cannot shut the Army. Just like first responders, you can't shut down police forces, you can't shut down the Air Force.

What we try to do is look at what the actual threat is in each of these places and -- you know, and again, we've kind of slowly brought -- brought it up and we put, you know, the measures in place that I -- I think are -- are warranted, where we're at right now.

STAFF: Okay, we're going to go on the line for a couple. (Inaudible) Helene

Q: Yeah, hi. Thank you.

The question is both to the General and for Secretary McCarthy. Do you feel comfortable at this point that the measures you put in place are enough to stem the disease within the -- the Army? And are you -- I mean, is -- cause it does seem -- and I think you're hearing the same questions over and over. It -- it -- it feels as if we're running behind, we're still chasing it -- it. And even now, you know, cause if -- we're still -- we're still chasing that.

Do you feel comfortable with where you are? And this goes back to why not have done something a little bit bigger a little earlier?

SEC. MCCARTHY: Well, Helene, you -- you know, obviously Chief will comment, as well. I -- it's the tenuous balance, continually being ready and being able to perform our current missions to support national objectives but it's also of stemming the threat.

So this is a day-to-day assessment and we'll take the appropriate measures accordingly. Chief, anything you want to add?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Yeah, I think I -- you know, I -- I -- again, if -- if we could just shut down every military post and -- and not have a mission, then we could do that but, you know, it's just like the first responders, you know, it's just like people in hospitals, they're not shutting hospitals down, so they can continue to do the mission.

The Army has the same mission and we -- we -- you know, we are not shutting down our bases. What we have done is taking a look at who's mission essential and who's not mission essential and allowed commanders to apply the appropriate measures to safeguard the force.

Q: But again, Abrams had a combat mission, he was able to do it. I guess that's where we're kind of confused --


GEN. MCCONVILLE: But see, the only thing I would suggest with -- with General Abrams is different, ok? His -- his troops are in -- with their equipment, in their bases where they're basically set. He has a lot more control over that than -- than we do.

And, you know, even -- even now, as, you know, he's gone to a higher level, because he -- you know, he -- he does not control the -- the contractors the way he -- he needed to. So there's different levels that you have to apply.

And as -- and he and I have talked about that. It's a different situation in the United States than in Korea.


SERGEANT MAJOR OF THE ARMY TONY GRINSTON: I do want to clarify, I talked to the 8th Army yesterday. A couple times we've said, you know, General Abrams shut down the base. But we hear the secretary and the chief keep saying, we're still going P.T.

I asked the 8th Army yesterday -- in Korea, I said, did you stop doing physical readiness training?

Absolutely not.

Were your -- General Abrams, were your (DFACs ?) open yesterday?

Yeah, they're open.

Are your gyms open?

Yes, they're open.

So we say we closed the base. What he -- what he says is that we created the bubble, so those are some training things that we have to do. Physical readiness is one of those things that we look at, especially from the sergeant major's perspective, that you've just got to do. You can't make that up when -- when it's time to be needed.

But I just want to clarify that everyone keeps saying we shut it down, those are things that I asked specifically for Korea and Italy. Did you do this?

Because of your mission, Italy, were you bringing folks in to do individual tasks?


Did you bring folks in, right now, to do physical readiness?


We create the bubble so that those that are coming in aren't infected. You -- like the chief said, you've got a lane. Are you getting your temperature checked? If you're not in that lane, there's a clean route to go to the hospital. So it's not exactly shut the gates and nobody comes into the base, it's mission-essential.

But there are still things that other places have done to shut things down in the U.S. that they didn't actually do because of their location. It's not a one-size-fits all, and those are some of the things I think I wanted to highlight specifically.


GEN. MCCONVILLE: I think, you know, talking -- you know, we shut down gyms in the States; they didn't shut down gyms. So we -- there's some measures here that are actually much more -- I wouldn't call it drastic, are much more severe than what they're doing in Korea.

STAFF: Okay, so we're going to do one person on the lines. Can we get Lara from Politico?

Q: Hi, thanks for doing this. I'm just wondering if you could tell us a little bit about -- there's been some talk of deploying forces in a law enforcement role. And I know some officials have pushed back, said we're -- there's no talk of martial -- martial law. But what would this look like if we were to go to that state, what does -- what does putting troops out in the public in a law enforcement role look like?

LIEUTENANT GENERAL DAN HOKANSON: Hey, Lara, this is Dan Hokanson with the Army National Guard.

When we look at our soldiers across the 54 states, territories and District of Columbia, we are there to really protect our communities, not to police them. And we have no forecast or any planning taking place, and we are not aware of any mission set to go down that way.

Q: But if it came down to enforcing curfews, is that what -- I mean, we've seen other -- we've seen other countries like the U.K. use the military to enforce curfews and those kinds of things. So is that something that is under consideration? And what would that look like, if it came to that?

GEN. HOKANSON: Actually, none of that is under consideration at this time. And when we look across the states, they're working very closely with their state leadership about every mission set, and that's currently not any of the mission sets that we're looking at right now. Thank you.

STAFF: Okay, we've got Carla Babb on the line.

Carla, are you still on?

Q: I am still on. Thanks, yes.

I actually just have a couple of clarifications first, and then I have a couple questions. But the clarifications are back on the numbers. You guys had mentioned that there were 284 beds that will be -- that are going to be built in New York. Is that for both the medical units the 531st and the 9th? Or is that for each unit?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: No, that's -- that's for both. And -- and again, that's what they bring with them. That's not what will necessarily be the final bed count they're supporting.

Q: Okay, okay, understood.

And then so my question is, can you tell us a little bit more about Army Corps converting empty hotel rooms into hospital beds? Is that still happening? Where are you guys on that process?

And Secretary Esper had mentioned that five Army hospital units were on prepare-to-deploy orders, or maybe he just said hospital units, he didn't specify Army. Do you -- are they Army units as well? And where and when are those other units going to deploy?

SEC. MCCARTHY: On the -- with respect to the -- the Corps of Engineers, what you -- it'll be important for you to take the opportunity to listen to General Semonite's briefing tomorrow. He'll be able to show you the concepts that they've put in place.

So it could be anything from falling in on a convention center, a hotel, a dorm room. There's a variety of different options. And all of that really comes down to the proximity to a hospital. So if you're about 30 minutes or less from a hospital, they'll look for existing infrastructure like those that I mentioned, and that's where they will fall in on that. Because it's all part of the systems engineering approach for the care, from screening all the way through recovery.

And I think -- what was the second one? Was --

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Second -- second one was on the --


GEN. MCCONVILLE: -- hospital -- on --


GEN. MCCONVILLE: -- prepare to deploy units


GEN. FLYNN: Right, so we have six active duty hospitals, as General McConville and the secretary mentioned. Three of them are -- are moving to New York and -- and Seattle, so we have -- we have three more available.

Now, you know, we -- we have a combat mission and we have, you know, forces that potentially could deploy, so we're -- we're, you know, working through with -- with FEMA and -- and really, with NORTHCOM on what they need. And so we'll -- that's -- that's what we have in the inventory though.

SEC. MCCARTHY: Those are active duty --


GEN. FLYNN: And those are active ones, right. We have -- we have a whole -- we actually have 15 in the Reserve. But that's what we have available.

Q: So just to confirm, the other medical units that have been on prepare-to-deploy orders are not Army? All three Army units that have been prepared to deploy are currently in the process of deploying to New York and Seattle right now, yes?

GEN. FLYNN: Yeah, I -- I'm not aware of other services' hospitals on prepare-to-deploy orders. You'd have to ask the other services. I know what we have.

STAFF: And so we've got Courtney, Courtney Kube on the line.

Courtney, you on?

Q: I am, yes. Thank you.

I just want to be sure -- first, I want to be sure that it was General McConville who said this, but it was (inaudible) I think you said that you think that more done to stop transmission, especially among nonessential personnel? Was that -- was that you, General McConville?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: I -- could you say it again? I said -- what I said was, we're trying to avoid exposure to other people. So when we look at non-mission-essential personnel, you know, the intent is that you know, they stay, you know, at home and they do minimum kind of exposure to other people that are outside the bubble. That's how you limit the spread of the virus if someone has it.

So, you know, the intent is, if you're in a -- a HPCON Delta-type situation, you're pretty much at home, you have to go to the grocery store, you go to the grocery store. If you have to do something emergency-type, you do that. You do physical fitness. But we don't need you out on the town, so to speak, being exposed to other people because we need you for that mission.

Q: Okay. So I mean, I guess you -- the way you said it was that we need to do more. So I'm just wondering if you think there are -- you know, with the -- (would ?) everyone going on Force Protection CON Charlie, all that, are there additional steps that need to be taken? And -- and I know you guys have been asked this over and over but when you said that, do you think that you went to Charlie and -- and essential personnel and whatnot fast enough?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Well, I think -- I think we did. Again, you know, you talk about let's go to Delta. If you would have been asking us why did you put, you know, the -- the -- the initial contingency forces to that level cause we want to make sure we are absolutely limiting exposures so if we have to react to some situation around the world, they're ready to go.

Q: Okay, thanks.

STAFF: Okay, Kristen . So -- so that's the -- it for the reporters on the line. So -- okay, so we'll just -- oh, one question so we can get as many out.

Q: Just to follow up again, when we had General Abrams briefing last week or maybe it was a week and a half ago, one of the things that really stuck out to me was when they really tightened access, they were actually taking temperature at the gate before anyone could get on.

And I think some of us are pushing on why isn't something like that being put in place at these bases, especially in bases like in Washington state and California, where you don't know who's coming onto the base and whether -- even if they don't have symptoms, they could be a carrier and it kind of puts that base and those service members at risk?

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Yeah, can you talk about that one, on -- why don't you --


GEN. MCCONVILLE: -- most -- many -- many of you are (in that ?) right now.

GEN. FLYNN: Yeah, I mean many are doing it and they're doing it at different locations across the bases. So some are at gates, some are at buildings, some are at entrances. I know units are doing it in morning formation areas to try to gauge and keep -- just keep everybody, you know, alert and aware of what we're trying to do here by this social distancing.


SGT. MAJ. GRINSTON: Yeah, that's what I wanted to say, is just cause it -- you know, if you've been to JBLM, if you look at the access point on I5, that just normal gate exposure, you -- you're going to clog up the whole road. It just -- you know, there should be nobody on the road.

So just because you don't check them there and you get to another area doesn't mean they're not being checked. I talked to the Corps Sergeant Major again yesterday, I had a (inaudible), and this is what he's saying. We're checking at other locations to make sure don't get in big formations, they're still, you know, calling in, they're limiting the people. They're still making the checks but they're just not doing it -- maybe that -- cause of that access. They closed some of the gates down, too.

So it may not make physical sense to do it right there at that gate and that area and that's why it's so important that the commanders do that, have the flexibility to go "hey, let's check somewhere else" because it makes sense for that location.

And that's what I found for JBLM. Plus, I was the Corps Sergeant Major up there.

Q: Well, just to double check, does that mean that everybody getting on the JBLM is having their temperature checked first at this point or --

SGT. MAJ. GRINSTON: Not necessarily. Again, that may not be necessary for what that location is. As -- like (inaudible) said, since -- so I'm going to check the temperature but do I have to do everybody on every formation, every time they move?

But let's go to what they're doing for -- for Italy. Italy has what's called a -- an overwatch team to make sure everybody's washing their hands when they go in. So they're checking temperatures but not necessarily every person, every day, every move.

Q: I guess the question is why is it so hard to -- if you have Army units on bases, to close the number -- close the entrances and exits and only essential personnel come on and off but it seems like there's still a large flow of people coming on to bases and it's hard for -- for us to visualize how that's safe.

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Well, that -- I mean, that's why we've gone to Charlie. That's basically saying, you know -- normally, if --

Q: -- to Charlie yesterday and this started happening several weeks ago. I mean --

SEC. MCCARTHY: You -- you're talking about the large flow? I mean, what's -- how many -- 70 percent live off posts, right? Charlie --


SEC. MCCARTHY: -- it's a statistics issue. You've got the perponderence  of people who live off posts, they've got to get to work.


GEN. MCCONVILLE: Look at Korea, Most of the people live on posts, I mean -- and, you know -- at least a good amount of them. I mean, that's -- that's the challenge when you take a look at how our communities --

(CROSSTALK) SEC MCCARTHY Sorry it took 52 minutes to get there. That’s my fault.



GEN. MCCONVILLE: But -- but 70 percent -- I mean, they -- you know, they're coming off posts. What we're trying to do is -- and -- and here's where it -- even -- even with -- you can't -- hey, with my spouse, it's like your -- your -- your dependents have to limit exposure, too.

And that's what's -- the challenge is and that's what we're trying to coach and -- and -- and get out there -- is because you can do perfect with -- you know, with -- with the soldiers but the soldiers are living off post and they have dependents are exposing themselves then you -- we have a real challenge.

So I -- and not everyone will have a temperature when they're coming on post, either. So, I mean, that's -- that's a --


GEN. MCCONVILLE: It is an indicator and -- and that's why we've -- we've talked to everyone as soon as they -- they know they have something and we are -- people are checking. I check myself twice a day.

SEC. MCCARTHY: They don't let us in the office unless we do --


SEC. MCCARTHY: Conditions are not apples to apples, with us and Cloutier and -- and Abrams.

Q: You have said, as of yesterday, current mitigation is insufficient. So what else are you -- what makes you convinced this will be enough? What else medically and operationally do you think you need to do?

And I am puzzled that Defender Europe was some weeks after it began in Korea. You obviously had a lot of contact with General Abrams. Are you satisfied, are you okay with having not really gone ahead and taken extra measures until Defender Europe?

I mean, if it seems that somebody might have told you there was a serious medical problem in the world, but you've -- you've said current measures are insufficient. So what else -- what else do you guys think, what is your -- the best advice you're getting on what else needs to be done?

SEC. MCCARTHY: We're learning every day, Barbara. I think it's --

Q: -- advice, with respect, sir, that you're getting now? We're -- we're -- I mean no disrespect --


Q: -- practical examples we can report on.

GEN. MCCONVILLE: Yeah, I mean -- I mean, we -- you know, eventually what we want to get to is to know who's been exposed and, you know, get some type of tests, you know -- I mean, because people that are -- recover, people are going to be exposed along the way, the vaccination, the treatment and the testing, so we know when we have a case so we can quickly go into a -- a quarantine-type situation.

It -- it's -- you know, that's the challenge, is to know when someone may be exposed to have the infection, then we can quickly get them care they need but if they're coming around and they don't have any symptoms, it makes it much more challenging.

Q: Can we just ask the Surgeon General a medical question?


Q: -- and again, I didn't --


Q: Sir, can we try this from a medical standpoint? You're in touch across the military with your medical counterparts in the other services. What are the surgeon generals and the medical experts in the military seeing, analyzing? Where is the trend analysis going for the U.S. military? Are you concerned that it -- that you are in fact -- you are still on an upward trajectory? Medically, what do you recommend to bring it down? What do you think needs to be done?

GEN. DINGLE: So first, I am absolutely concerned that as the trends increase in the United States Army that it's going to impact not just our citizens but our soldiers. Absolutely, that could impact readiness. The bottom line is, and you've heard it up here today, you've heard all of the surgeon generals speak it, is we have to limit the exposure. What I call it is the discipline of social and physical distancing. You know, if we can limit and stop the exposure, that can flatten the curve. That will allow the researchers to do what they do best: to find the countermeasures and the vaccines.

That's going to take time, and as that time progresses on, we, as soldiers and citizens, must practice, again, the art and the science and the discipline of social distancing because this is brand-new for us. It's -- it's complex, and as we move through these we've got to give the research community the opportunity to find the medical countermeasures. But we must first take the responsibility to protect ourselves, the mission and support the whole-of-government response.

Q: What is the medical data showing you, your counterparts? What is the medical data showing you in this country right now? Because I assume you're looking across the board as well to see what's going on in the civilian medical sector. What is the medical data showing you about the upward trajectory, and do you have any analysis for yourself and the country, but for the military about when you think you could reach an apex and begin to bring it down? What's the data showing you?

GEN. DINGLE: Well, again, consistent, we're hoping that, you know, again, the summer timeframe. We are hoping that this is seasonal, and that that trend will come down. But again, this is new for us. This is complex, as new territory. And so as we continue, again, to practice the protection of our soldiers, the mission and our citizens in the country, the art of the social discipline -- the discipline of social distancing, rather, is going to be a key factor because if we don't, the numbers will continue to increase, and then we are putting ourselves at risk if we expose ourselves.

And so again, you know, there's no different trend analysis to what you see. You know, we -- again, we're anticipating, hoping that that trendline will come down as the season changes also.


Q: But you think about another three months of restrictions or constraints in the military? You said early summer.

GEN. DINGLE: Well, I can't -- I can only speak to the trend itself. It's increasing. In order for us to stop that trend, we've got to limit the exposure. And that's individual responsibility of every citizen, as well as a soldier's practice that same art.

Q: But what about the need for widespread testing? You said there's been 5,000 tests so far. So you're facing what the American people are facing. There aren't enough tests out there, so you don't know the universe, really, of who's infected until you test, correct?

GEN. DINGLE: That is correct.

Q: So how do you get more tests?

GEN. DINGLE: Well, once the -- the test kits become more available, then you can increase the testing. I think, and you know, that as the numbers trend higher we're going to see more testing because now we're getting more positives, and that is automatically going to drive the testing up, and that requirement.

Q: Have they told you about getting more testing equipment and test -- test kits?

GEN. DINGLE: Well, right now we have nine labs that have the ability to test.

Q: But what about the kits, the actual kits you need to test?

GEN. DINGLE: The kits right now, we have a sufficient amount of kits to test our current levels, and as we --

Q: How many -- how many --

GEN. DINGLE: -- as we lean forward to expand our testing not only downrange, but in our -- our remote areas within the continent of the United States, our -- our -- our ability to test will be expanded, and that will create more demand on test kits and to support material.

Q: But how many kits do you have? How many testing -- do you have right now?

GEN. DINGLE: Right now we have over 9,000 -- or 19,000 tests available.

Q: Where did you get them from?

GEN. DINGLE: Our -- our -- again, we get the same feeds from the rest of the country, so they're coming from Health and Human Services or CDC pushes those -- those kits to us.

Q: How many do you need?

GEN. DINGLE: Well, as -- again, unknown. This is new territory. So again, if we don't practice the -- the discipline of social distancing, the numbers are going to go up, and that's going to drive the requirement for more tests, so --


Q: And just (inaudible) I know there was the 19,000. When you say "test kits," the 19,000 -- 19,000 individual tests? Because sometimes a test kit is multiple tests.

GEN. DINGLE: That is correct. That is correct.

Q: Just one test, 19,000 tests.

Q: How many do you have on hand?

GEN. DINGLE: That's correct.

STAFF: All right, so -- so we're -- we're at 2:00, and I know you've got a staff (inaudible) --

SEC. MCCARTHY: We do. We've got a meeting with our boss here in a little bit, so thanks. Thanks a lot.

STAFF: Thank you.

SEC. MCCARTHY: We'll see you next week.