As of the morning of March 24, the National Guard Bureau is tracking 26 positive cases of the COVID-19 virus among its personnel, including one in a headquarters staff member, NGB Chief Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel said.
“We expect … that number will continue to grow,” he said during a March 24 press briefing at the Pentagon.
The pool of infected Guard members includes personnel who supported in-state pandemic response efforts and those who haven’t been working in the field, Lengyel told reporters.
“The service member who works at the National Guard Bureau is currently self-isolating while receiving the appropriate level of medical attention,” NGB spokesman Wayne Hall told Air Force Magazine via email following the briefing. “The service member had not been in the building for a week; however, as a precaution the area where the individual works has been sealed and received a deep cleaning. The entire staff in that area is now teleworking and self-quarantined. The Chief of the National Guard Bureau does not work in the same area as the member.”
NGB will continue to observe the same “appropriate Health Protection measures at Arlington Hall Station,” which it’s been taking since the start of the pandemic, Hall said.
Also as of early March 24, more than 9,000 Guard personnel have been activated as part of their states’ fights against the new coronavirus, some under Title 32 authority from the President. However, Lengyel said, “It wouldn’t surprise him” if that number topped 10,000 “by the afternoon.” He added that governors and state adjutants general have informed him of near-term plans to activate “hundreds and thousands” more personnel to support state-level pandemic response.
Lengyel also said NGB doesn’t intend to utilize Guard troops—in Title 32 status or otherwise—“to do quarantine or enforce shelter-in-place operations.” While he acknowledged that Guard personnel are technically allowed to support law enforcement when activated in a Title 32 capacity—in which the federal government foots the bill for the activation, but troops work in their home states and answer to their governors— he said “no plan” existed to utilize Guard troops “in any kind of large-scale, lockdown capacity of the United States of America.”