Pentagon officials outline plan to protect military members from COVID-19 crisis

WASHINGTON – Pentagon officials on Tuesday outlined ways they can keep United States servicemen and women safe from the coronavirus.

It comes just one day after a sailor from the USS Theodore Roosevelt died of COVID-19. Nearly 600 sailors on the Navy ship have tested positive for the virus.

“Our condolences go out to his family,” Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

General Milley says the Department of Defense is working – much like the rest of America – to ramp up coronavirus testing.

“Especially for groups that are going to be in tighter quarters,” he said.

The increased testing is just part of the Pentagon’s efforts to protect servicemen and women.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he’s sent out eight directives in the past weeks. They include requiring social distancing to a travel ban to and from some U.S. bases.

“This is a necessary measure to keep our people safe and our military ready to act,” Esper said.

The Department of Defense hopes to increase the amount of testing in the next 45 days.

Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA) wants service members to know if they’ve contracted the virus, and for the Department of Defense to deploy antibody testing.

“Testing, testing, testing,” he said. “This certainly should be a clarion call for all of us.”

Esper says the military will continue to work through the chain of command to change longstanding military practices that might allow the virus to spread.

“How do you get 6-foot distance on a sub, or even a carrier for that matter?” Esper said. “So the challenge will always be implementation.”

The Pentagon says as the U.S. military fights the battle against the virus, it remains ready for whatever challenge it might face.